The symptoms of nose cancer in dogs can at times be quite challenging to be detected. The reason being, that the most common forms of nasal cancer in dogs are found in the dog's nasal cavity which means that they cannot be visibly detected. There are however several early symptoms of nose cancer in dogs that can be detected and which warrant investigation by the vet. It must be considered that there are several conditions that can produce similar symptoms and therefore some testing and treatment trials may be needed to rule out other more common conditions. Following is some information about symptoms of nose cancer in dogs.
Symptoms of Nose Cancer in Dogs
In dogs there may be two types of nose cancer: cancers that affect the dog's nasal cavity (inside of the nose), and cancer that visibly grow on top of the nose, the part that is typically wet (technically known as nasal planum or nasal plate.)
As mentioned, the most common types of cancers of the dog's nose affect the dog's nasal cavity, in particular within the dog's sinuses, which translates into a diagnostic challenge considering that no dog owners or vets can freely see inside the nose where the lining is. This means that often signs are only noticed as the cancer is progressing.
What signs of nasal cancer in dogs are mostly identified? There are several. Because nasal cancer tends to affect mostly one nostril, any discharge that appears to come out of one nostril and appears to be of a mucus, thick/creamy consistency and that is green, yellow, or sometimes bloody, should warrant investigation. Many dog owners fail to have the dog seen at this stage as they assume their dog "just has a a cold." As the cancer progresses though, both nostrils may be affected.
Affected dogs may be seen sneezing, have shortness of breath, noisy breathing, difficulty sleeping, bad breath, enlarged mandibular lymph nodes, decreased appetite and they may be caught pawing at their nose, licking their nose and rubbing their nose on the floor or other surfaces.
As the cancer progresses, affected dogs may also develop some swelling or presence of a cavity or depression in the facial area by the muzzle or the eye, due to tumor growth or bone erosion. Dogs may also show pain upon opening the mouth. If the cancer expands to the nasolacrimal tract, affected dog may show protrusion of the eye and eye discharge. In some few cases, where the tumor spreads to the brain, it can cause seizures, disorientation and behavior changes.
"Most dogs (about 85%) with nasal neoplasia will manifest with frank hemorrhagic or serosanguinous nasal discharge, which correlates with a poorer prognosis."~DVM360
Investigating the Issue
A problem with symptoms of nose cancer in dogs, as mentioned, is that there are several other conditions that can cause similar symptoms and these conditions are much more common in dogs. Examples of other possible causes, other than nose cancer, include a foreign body stuck in the nose, a tooth root abscess, presence of nasal mites, sinusitis or bacterial rhinitis.
Because several of these issues are more common (like sinusitis or bacterial rhinitis) veterinarians are likely to prescribe a course of antibiotics to see if the symptoms clear up. If the dog gets better on the antibiotics, this is often suggestive that the dog truly had an infection.
However, in the case of nasal tumors, the symptoms may temporarily subside considering that tumors tend to have a little but of infection on their surface, but they unfortunately will eventually make a comeback, explains veterinarian Dr. Damian Dressler. This therefore warrants further investigation to confirm or rule out a potential nasal cancer.
While this delay in diagnosis may be upsetting to some dog owners, it must considered that statistically, there are higher chances for the dog to simply have a nasal infection than nose cancer. Having aggressive (and expensive!) testing would therefore make most clients unhappy.
"We also need to remember the big picture though. If every dog that arrived at a veterinary hospital with a runny nose was taken for a skull X-ray under anesthesia and sent for a CT scan, most would say this did not make sense."~Dr. Damian Dressler
A Word About Statistics
As seen, just because your dog is showing symptoms of nose cancer in dogs doesn't necessarily mean your dog has nose cancer. The odds are on your side when it comes to statistics.
For instance, according to a study, it was found that cancers of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses account for about 1 percent of all neoplasms in dogs. However, experts in the field have been starting to report more cases.
It's also important to consider predisposing factors. Statistics show that nasal tumors are more commonly found in middle-aged to older dogs. Just to have an idea, as a general rule of thumb, the age of onset for nasal carcinomas is reported to be around the age of 9 or 10 years old, while the age of onset for nasal sarcomas tends to be lower, affecting dogs who are around the ages of 7 or 8 years old.
Breed is also a factor. Dolicocephalic dog breeds such as dachshunds, collies and many sight hounds (basically, dogs known for having longer snouts) appear to be predisposed to nose cancer. There is belief this is because the greater nasal passage translates into a greater number of nasal epithelial cells.
Other predisposing factors consist of being male (male dogs are found to get this type of cancer more) and living in the city, most likely due to the increased exposure to pollutants.
If you therefore see symptoms of nose cancer in dogs, it's is best to see your vet sooner than later. You don't want this disease to progress and early intervention is important.
- Dog Cancer TV: Nasal Tumors – What You Need to Know About Your Dog’s Cancer
- VCA Animal Hospital: Nasal Tumors
- DVM360: When it comes to nasal tumors, the nose knows
- Dog Cancer Blog: Diagnosis of Nasal Tumors