Tumors of the nose and sinus in dogs are often difficult to diagnose at first. These tumors are located inside the nasal passages, invisible to the naked eye, at least in the earlier stages.
Many times a guardian will notice that their four legged family member starts to sneeze more often. The first thought can be,”Does my dog have a cold?” Sometimes there will be a bit of a cough. Discharge or blood from a nostril are not rare. Finally, there can be changes (a swelling or a indentation) in the outward appearance of the muzzle or around the eye.
Oftentimes, a veterinarian will simply dispense some antibiotics to see if it clears up. The reason for this is that sinusitis (infection of the sinuses) is more common than tumors in the nose.
However, if a dog has a tumor in the nasal passageways, any positive effect of the antibiotics will be short lived. The antibiotics won’t cure the tumor.
The reason why antibiotics may work for a while is that there is a little infection on the surface of the tumor. This is common in nasal tumors. The antibiotics deal with the infection and things get better, but it does not last.
Sometimes guardians will be upset that the tumor was missed initially. This feeling is natural since nasal tumors are serious.
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.
If 9 out of 10 dogs received the diagnosis of a simple nasal infection after all this testing, most guardians would be unhappy due to overly aggressive testing.
So we have to strike a balance.
How does one actually diagnose a nasal cancer? Typically, in private practice, an X-ray is done as the first step. This allows us to see if there is a proliferation that would not be there normally, within the sinus. Sometimes one can see bone loss in the area of the tumor.
Unfortunately, this is often not enough. A vet may not be able to say definitively that the X-ray changes are due to a cancer in the nose.
A biopsy is often needed. This can be done most of the time with a small scope that has a little grasping arm (bronchoscopy). Sometimes the sinuses can be flushed out to collect some tumor cells that will give us a diagnosis.
These procedures are done under anesthesia.
In considering treatment, to really tell how far along these types of tumors have progressed, a CT (can scan) should be done. X-rays are not very good at telling the extent of tumor spread in the nasal sinuses.
More information about these important cancers can be found in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.
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