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

Diagnosis of Nasal Tumors

Updated: October 5th, 2018

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 D

Leave a Comment

  1. Susan Kazara Harper on December 22, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    Hi Marie,
    I’m sorry to hear about your boy’s diagnosis. Prednisone is often used as part of a cancer protocol. It’s a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, and it’s also used outside of cancer for many other situations. Does it lengthen a life? There would be no way to have data on that. Does lessening inflammation lengthen life overall? Probably not significantly all by itself. You’re looking at a bigger issue. We have some wonderful blogs on oral and nasal tumors and the possible treatment protocols. Please get your boy on the best nutrition you can ( and work with your vet for the best options for him. Good luck!

  2. becm84 on June 7, 2014 at 2:20 am

    Our 2 1/2 year old golden lab mix was diagnoised last november with a nasal tumor. We had done the CT scan, rhinoscopy and surgery……a great cost but with much hope that we would have our pup for a long time. after surgery the Dr. told us that she got everything and we should have him for another 8 years, recently he has been exhibiting the symtoms once again that he had in the beginning. I have been in contact with the Dr that did the surgery and she had advised us to go back to our local vet and they can advise on how to keep him “comfortable” since the cost of the surgery was extravagant and we are unable to provide that again. Any advice on what to ask our local vet when we go next Tueday?

    • Susan Kazara Harper on June 8, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      Hi Beryl, Hang in there, you can do a lot! Time is short because you’re headed back to your vet, so in this reply I want to focus on a couple vital things:
      Completely understand that you don’t want to go for surgery again. Your dog has youth and vitality on his side. Get his nutrition sorted with real food… please look at the blog page where you can download the main points of The Dog Cancer Diet for free. The full diet is in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide book, which is really an invaluable resource for you. If your dog doesn’t have the best nutrition going, he won’t have the best tools for his body to fight. Yes, there are goods foods you can give, and at not a huge cost, but just as important, there are foods NOT to give a dog with a cancer diagnosis. Please check out the diet. Apocaps is the nutraceutical Dr. Dressler formulated to help dogs with cancer. The details on how they work can be found at Supporting his immune system and encouraging the cancer cells to die off are two powerful ways to help him. When you have your appt with the vet, you need to get into champion mode. Take charge. Statistics and prognosis are helpful, but your dog does not an expiration date carved in stone. Learn everything you can about nasal cancer, (there is a lot of information within this blog) and partner with your vet to help your dog. Don’t focus on the “oh dears” and the negatives. Stay positive, we’ll help you learn ways to support your boy. So, read, learn, get the food right and go in to your vet with a list of questions and be ready to write down answers. Check out these blogs: (and)
      All the best,

  3. Lisa on February 18, 2014 at 4:51 am

    My 6 year old golden retriever was informally diagnosed with a nasal tumor 10 months ago after many months of testing which all showed nothing. At one point, we thought we were going to lose her because she was so sick and had lost so much weight. She was put on several different antibiotics and an appetite stimulant. Everything was good for a while and then she started showing signs of lethargy again, coughing, sneezing, bloody nose and not eating. After more inconclusive testing at a very expensive teaching hospital, I took her back to my regular vet who diagnosed her with the nasal tumor. That was last April and she has been on prednisone ever since and appears to be doing great, although we know her prognosis is not good! This is our 2nd golden with cancer, and having been through it already and seeing what the treatment did to our other dog, we decided to just ride this one out.

    • marie on December 17, 2014 at 3:32 am

      hi my dog is 15 he has just been diagnosed with this he is also getting predmisone does this lengthen their life

  4. Alice on May 26, 2013 at 8:39 am

    Dr. Dressler,
    We got a diagnosis of a nasal tumor in our beautiful Pepper, a 10-year-old Great Dane, after a biopsy that cleared much of the obstruction in her right nostril……Right now she is exhibiting signs that may say she is in pain…tucking herself in to the corner dog bed (her pal Moose, a 9-year-old Dane uses whatever bed is available)…and when Moose goes upstairs to sleep on the memory foam bed all day…Pepper has been uncharacteristically staying on the corner bed downstairs…ALL DAY. So her energy is not great, but she is as sweet as ever, and very much welcomes a massage and fussing over her…I have just read almost the entire Dog Cancer Survival Guide over the past two days. Before reading the book we had decided to have an x-ray done to get an idea of how extensive the tumor may be, but if i read things correctly, this may be pointless? What I would like to know is whether it makes sense in a Dane of this age to do a CT scan…or whether we should just go forward with the homemade diet, Apocaps….she is taking Tramadol and Rimadyl for hip dysplasia and perhaps arthritis so not sure if that precludes certain treatments or perhaps we could replace Rimadyl with something else (another inflammatory)? I would like to make our sweet girl as comfortable as she can be, while understanding that she has already outlived her life expectancy and that it might be basically cruel to put her through radiation treatment…though I get the impression that if we could get a CyberKnife radiation treatment (we are near to Dr. Ettinger) this might ease her pain somewhat? We have an x-ray scheduled for this week, but it would be wonderful if we get another thought on to whether a CT scan would make more sense…or if we should forego all of these? Perhaps we will try to contact Dr. Ettinger to see if she can give us any advice regarding further diagnostics…and perhaps treatment…But any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on May 30, 2013 at 4:01 pm

      Dear Alice,
      sorry to hear about your Pepper. I think a consult with Dr. Ettinger would be a good idea, and imaging would be a part of the cyberknife work-up if you plan to go that route, so it would follow logically.
      here are some posts that i think might help too:
      In the end, as a guardian, the decision will be yours, and will be correct as long as you have done your homework.
      Hope this helps

    • Dr. Susan Ettinger on June 2, 2013 at 4:59 pm


      I am sorry to hear about Pepper. For the head I do not think skull X-rays are useful. You really need 3D imaging of a CT to determine extent. If you are interested in CyberKnife and it sounds like you are close to me, why don’t you come in with Pepper for a consultation at ASC? IF you decide to do CK, the CT scan must be done on our unit for radiation planning. Please call my office and we can get you scheduled. 914-457-4000
      An alternative to Ck radiation is palliative radiation, which can address pain but does not kill and treat tumor cells the way CK radiation can.
      We can go over all the options as they relate to Pepper at an appointment. You can then decide what seems best for you and him.
      Here’s some more info

      I look forward to meeting and helping you and Pepper.
      All my best, Dr Sue

  5. b woodling on May 8, 2013 at 6:23 am

    My husband’s 4 year old Brussels Griffon, also service dog, was diagnosed with sinus cancer. We were told there is nothing to be done. I can’t figure this out, as I read this cancer usually appears in older, male dogs, with long snouts. Has anyone ever heard of this happening to such a young dog?

  6. Laura on April 8, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    Dr. D,

    My 6 year old puggle has become congested (cloudy mucous) from his nose for the last 8 months. His reverse sneeze has also become much more frequent. After numerous trips to the vet, his sneezing and mucous as only got worse. At first they thought it was nasal mites and he had shots every week for 6 weeks -it seemed to help a bit but didn’t cure it. They did a nasal flush and found nothing. Then a rhinoscopy with biopsy and found nothing so have assumed it is allergies. He is now on Vanectyl – 5 days in – and his sneezing and mucous is the same or worse. Any ideas if it could be anything else? His demeanor and eating habits are the same – should I push for a CT Scan?

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on April 10, 2013 at 12:41 pm

      Dear Laura,
      I would double check on the following:
      Was a cytology done on the fluid to check for cancer cells?
      Was a bacterial culture and sensitivity done to check for resistant bacteria?
      Was a fungal culture done to check for fungal growth?
      Once these items are addressed, the choice will be to absorb the cost for imaging for nasal masses, and/or a nasal biopsy. Sometimes a practice with a very small endoscope can help with nasal biopsies and visualization of some of the nasal cavity.
      Sometimes you just need the right medication for allergic rhinitis and a different one might help, along with the proper antibiotic. Don’t forget immune support etc.
      I hope this helps
      Dr D

  7. Lester Kwok on March 24, 2013 at 7:42 am


    I was seeking for more information about Nanodiamond treatment. I know there should be only one vet in Singapore that will recommend you this but what I would really like to know is that was your nanodiamond binded with?

    Sorry Dr Dressler, I am also writing from Singapore and I do not mean to hijack this thread except for the fact that my precious JRT had bone cancer diagnosed in 2011 Dec and of recent, her cancer has spread to the brains and I am desperate to try anything including of the very expensive Sang Hwang and Nanodiamond (nanographite) therapy

  8. Rachel on March 19, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    Dear Dr. Dressler,
    Thank you for your response. It really means a lot to us!

    Her current vet is the one who gave us hope when another vet we went to gave us none. But now, even the current vet is giving up on treatment for her because of the metastasis..

    We are feeding Precious a full home cooked diet prepared accordingly to the guide. For supplements, she is taking salmon fish oil, astragalus and colostrum with immune factors. We recently ordered K9 immunity and K9 transfer factors online, the shipment delivery should be within these few days. We will also be ordering the Dog Cancer Survival Guide and Apocaps from Amazon as soon as we get our next paycheck. I have read up on artemisinin from your previous blog post. Should we include this as well?

    Sadly there is no oncologist in Singapore. We did ask her vet about other chemo drugs since vincristine is not working for her, however, they just told us other chemo drugs will do more harm for the dogs than to their cancer without giving us any option for other chemo protocols. I guess we should really find another vet who is more willing to try and perhaps will be willing to contact Dr. Fox on Neoplasene treatment since I doubt her current vet would do so…

    Thank you so much for your advice, Dr. Dressler!

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on March 26, 2013 at 4:52 pm

      Dear Rachel,
      glad to help.
      I’d hold off on the Artemisinin until the other steps are in place..
      Dr D

  9. Rachel on March 14, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Within a week’s time from my post above, things just went downhill fast..

    Last Friday when we brought Precious in for her weekly chemo injection, another vet (hervet was on leave) told us they would discuss about the option of freezing the tumor when her vet is back seeing her tumor growing bigger despite on chemo treatment. We asked if there are other chemo drugs that could be more suitable and the vet replied us that other drugs will do more harm for the dogs than to their cancer. The vet wanted to give her steroid anti inflammation pill but we opted for NSAID and so the vet gave her serrazyme.

    On Monday, we noticed her jaw trembled on and off and on Wednesday night, we discovered a new lump at her neck near to her jaw.. Off to vet again the very next day. Her vet just took a look at the new lump and said her cancer is spreading and there’s nothing much they can do for her. They will also stop the current chemo treatment for her, reason being it will do her more harm than good.. Vet also asked us to be mentally prepared for her time to come..

    Should I insist for the vet to do a surgery to remove the new lump or biopsy? He did says that if we want surgery to remove it, he could do it but it will come back and he don’t see any point in putting Precious through GA, surgery, recovery, etc. as it will weaken her further..

    We are really at a loss now… What should we do? Should we insist to continue with the chemo treatment and do a test for the new lump? The vet will do nothing for her. I’m very worried that she’ll slide downhill faster and in more pain without any treatment.. I’m really depressed…

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on March 19, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      it is never a bad idea to test to see if indeed we are dealing with a metastasis, in spite of the fact that the odds are higher that it is…but just so we know. I’m wondering…have you read the Dog Cancer Survival Guide? Is Precious on the diet? Apocaps? Immune support? Have you also considered Neoplasene, orally, at low doses, along with mirtazapine? Have you considered other chemo protocols, perhaps seeking a second opinion with an oncologist or at least another vet?
      I hope this helps
      Dr D

  10. Rachel on March 7, 2013 at 1:54 am

    My 7 year old Silky Terrier, Precious, was diagnosed with nasal tumor after a CT scan was performed in December 2012. No biopsy was carried out as her vet advised us that it will be very risky for her due to bone loss showed in the scan.

    Since we are living in Singapore, radiation is not an option at all, hence, her vet put her on weekly low dose chemo injection (vincristine) that has been ongoing for 5 weeks now. Prior to this, she was on a new oral drug called nanographite that we are going to discontinue with after her current batch finishes. A very expensive treatment to us, we have to scrimp and save all our money to buy the prescribed dosage. Sadly, it doesn’t do any effect to her tumor which is growing bigger and pushing towards her left eye socket.. Despite her illness, we are thankful that she is still pretty much playful, happy and sniffing everything when we go for our daily walks.

    We are feeding Precious a full home cooked diet prepared accordingly to the guide. We add fish oil and (trying to add) coconut oil to her meals. The problem is she is very picky on supplements. If she smells anything different with her food, she refuses eating it even after we prepared another supplement-free portion for her. The only supplement she takes without much fuss is fish oil given at a low amount of 500mg daily.

    The supplements recommended by her vet are cordyceps, astragalus and colostrum with immune factors. Should we still go for K9 immunity, K9 transfer factors and Apocaps? We really wish to let her try anything within our means but are worried that she will refused it (we could mix it in her food and pray hard she doesn’t notice the difference, else we’ll have to resort in force pill her). Also, normal shipping time from Amazon to Singapore is a long wait… Really hope that we could have more treatment options available in Singapore…

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