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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Worried about Oral or Nasal Tumors? You Should Be!

Updated: February 8th, 2021


You should check your dog every month for dental and nasal tumors. Yes! They are way more common and aggressive than you might think. Here’s how.

Cancer of the mouth is on the increase. One big reason we don’t find early signs is that we never look in the mouth.  Oral Malignant Melanomas are as scary as they sound, but we can stack the deck in our favor with early detection.

I was recently discussing this subject with a vet friend of mine, and she said “the one, most valuable thing people could do to help us vets is to get their dogs used to having their mouths examined. Please spread the word.”  So, my friend, consider it done.

Respect the Mouth

The mouth and nose are truly the command center of the dog. Remember that as much as our dogs love us, their DNA is programmed from centuries of survival in the wild.  Their senses are many millions of times more acute than ours.

Naturally, they instinctively guard these tools.

Your dog’s mouth is a powerful place; a source of great joy as they eat, drink and play. My boy’s mouth is one of his most closely guarded areas, and it took time to gain his trust with it.

We all know that our dogs need to have good, clean teeth but we must also ensure the gums, tongue, jaw and throat are healthy.

If you or I developed a problem in our mouth, we would make a dental appointment.

But dogs will only let us know that there is a problem in the mouth if it interferes with their eating, drinking, or becomes very painful. By that stage things could be very well established.  We don’t want to get to that point.

How to Check Your Dog’s Mouth for Bumps

Put yourself in your dog’s paws again for a moment, and think how you’d feel if a family member walked up to you, put their arm around your neck and tried to open your mouth with their hands! Our dogs feel the same way.

Add to that the fact that if a dog doesn’t want you to open their mouth, it ain’t going to happen. Those powerful jaws will keep the sacred space shut, and no, you can’t stop up his nose to get him to open up.

So, when I approach my boy, I use the same respect and calm approach mentioned above.  I’ve taught him the word ‘mouth’ to mean that I want to open and see inside.

I stroke him and put an arm around him, or use my hands gently while he’s laying on his back. While he’s relaxed I lift his upper lip and run my fingers along his gum line, admiring the teeth and the lovely pink color of his gums.

I gently view everything on the outside from top to bottom.  Then I keep saying ‘mouth’ as I gently put my fingers in the space between his upper and lower molars at the back, and wait till he relaxes to let me open his jaws.  It may take several seconds or up to a minute, but it’s his time and I wait.

This is a very special time, because I know I have his complete trust.

I don’t stick my hands in there, but just a few seconds of his cooperation lets me get a view of his tongue, inside area of the teeth and gums and the very back of his mouth.

And that’s enough. I see strong, clean teeth, healthy, pink gums and no uneven areas or growths. I let him close his mouth and give him a thank you and a cuddle (and a healthy treat of course).

What To Watch For In the Mouth

If I see any swelling, lumps, color differences, signs of blood, etc. I immediately book a vet appointment.

I don’t wait a single day!

I also don’t try to take a picture while holding his mouth open. It’s pretty impossible.

You don’t wait and see on this one, the opportunity to catch something early here is critical!

A Must Read whether your dog has cancer or not. It’s the number one killer of dogs!

That Wonderful Nose

I’ve never discovered a comfortable way to look up my dog’s nose. We discussed it, and neither of us thought it was a very good idea.  But I want to be on guard against Nasal Tumors.

So, as I cuddle my boy, I look at his gorgeous snout, and gently feel the lovely line along his face.

If I were ever to notice that he was sensitive to this touch, or if I felt anything out of the ordinary around his nostrils or see a swelling along the snout or up near the eyes, I’d make an appointment with my vet.

I also watch for any discharge from his nose. Has he started to sneeze a lot? Is there ever any blood around a nostril?

Any of these signs could signal a problem, and they definitely signal the need for our vet.

What to Do If You Find a Bump or Lump on Your Dog

Oral and nasal tumors need to be examined as soon as possible.  Get to your vet, and know that you are protecting your doggie friend by taking immediate action.

Dr. Dressler’s book, The Dog Cancer Survival Guide has information on every type of cancer, every treatment protocol, and the best nutrition and supplementation. It’s a must-read.

Happy Tails!



Leave a Comment

  1. Michelle Bergstedt on March 1, 2021 at 6:48 pm

    Thank you for posting this valuable information. It took me a while to bring myself to read the article, because this is a difficult topic for me after losing my 13 year old mini schnauzer with Cushing’s disease to of all things, a non-pigmented malignant oral melanoma. Even our very senior/seasoned Veterinarian thought it was a simple non-cancerous growth because it was pink on his black upper gum line.
    I regret never checking his mouth because he was old and had most of his teeth pulled. His oral tumor developed quickly in January of 2018, sadly after removal, biopsy surgery and beginning radiation at LSU Veterinary Hospital, it was too late. Seizures started to occur after first treatment and it was determined the cancer had already spread to his brain. The tumor continued to grow and rupture. All we could do was keep him comfortable with palliative care and meds for pain and infection. The prednisone gave him a terrible ulcer and interfered with his Cushing’s medication. We helped him gain his wings on May 7, 2018. It only took four months for oral cancer to take him from us. I couldn’t believe how aggressive the tumor grew and grew back in only 11 days post surgery. I learned the hard way that no matter if your pet has teeth or not, oral care and inspection is still a top priority. I hope others can benefit from this article, especially the part about getting your pet to your Veterinarian in days, don’t delay. Arrange a biopsy for that strange looking growth ASAP and find an Veterinary Oncologist in your area or local university Veterinary Hospital if you have one. Most importantly, realize their quality of life must come first. It’s a week to week situation and rollercoaster ride. There are no wrong decisions, especially if you decide not to seek or cannot afford treatment. Sometimes the money and effort you extend to fight a dog’s cancer doesn’t justify the added stress it can put on them only to extend their life a few months. Of course Some cancers and prognosis are much better, no matter a dog’s age. Luck was just not on our side in our personal situation. My heart goes out to anyone who is/has dealing with cancer in their beloved fuzzy friend.

  2. Laura Berg on February 13, 2021 at 12:03 pm

    We were one of the lucky ones…our Sarah (mixed breed Golden Retriever/Black Lab) is 2.5 years cancer-free after a surgical excise of her lower left jaw. Our vet discovered a melanoma under her tongue while doing a routine dental on her. We immediately took her to the oncology department at A&M’s university vet program where they felt it was caught early enough to get clean margins if the jaw was surgically removed. Sarah has not missed a beat and has regular check-ups every 3 months to be sure we are not missing anything. This certainly taught us the need for physical inspection of our dogs mouths and now I have learned from your article that it is important to inspect the nasal area as well. Thank you for the information. I learn something new from every article posted on the Dog Cancer Blog…and I greatly appreciate that!

  3. William OBrien on November 6, 2018 at 5:27 am

    I lost my 11.5 year old to a dreaded nasal tumor. Every Vet I brought him to diagnosed him wrong. They treated him for an allergies. The two worst things they did was 1. prescribe Apoquel ( the new wonder drug ) which made the cancer grow faster. 2. Instead of the needle biopsy they decided to scoop out the tumor without conferring with me while they had him in their care for the procedure. All they did was sequentially take my money at the cost of our family’s Labrador’s life. I don’t trust Vet’s any longer other than your invaluable book. Wish I had known of it in advance. I know market your book to everyone I know who is a pet owner. P.S. Another symptom of nasal cancer is an unusual widening of one or both nostrils and discoloration and dryness and cracking.

  4. Joanne G on April 11, 2017 at 8:10 am

    Thank you for this article! It is great advice for how to make dogs more comfortable while checking their mouths, and less stressful for all!

  5. Preventing Oral & Nasal Tumors | LakeCross Online on March 14, 2014 at 8:42 am
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