Nasal Tumor in Dogs – The Risk Factors

By Tess Thompson

It may sound a bit strange, but the way your dog’s head is shaped has a direct correlation with the risk of developing a nasal tumor. A dog with a long head is more susceptible to nasal tumors than dogs with short, broad heads. The benchmark is a cephalic index, which is the ratio (in percent) of the maximum breadth to the maximum length of the skull. A cephalic index of 75 or less is considered to be a long head.

The logic for a long head to be more susceptible to cancers is simple. The long head has a longer nasal passage and therefore provides a larger area for environmental carcinogenic substances to accumulate. These substances, like smoke from tobacco, indoor coal or kerosene combustion, and flea sprays, can harm the nasal passage significantly. Breeds with short heads are associated with abnormal narrowing of nasal passageway and are typically mouth breathers. This reduces the risk and the exposure of the spongy bones of the nasal passages to environmental carcinogens is reduced.

This aspect places the following breeds in the high risk category of developing a nasal tumor:

  • Airedale terriers
  • Basset hounds
  • Old English sheepdogs
  • Scottish terriers
  • Collies
  • Shetland sheepdogs
  • German Shorthair Pointers

Another type of nasal tumor, known among the medical fraternity as nasal planum or nasal vestibule tumors is more prevalent in Labrador and Golden Retrievers.

Nasal passage and sinus tumors are relatively less common, constituting only 1―2 percent of all types of cancer in dogs. Although nasal tumors are mostly malignant, they spread only to the surrounding lymph nodes, brain and lungs.

The symptoms of nasal tumors are similar to the basic symptoms of all types of cancers. As with the symptoms of liver cancer in dogs, these too can prevail for a long time before the actual diagnosis occurs. Nasal tumors are characterized by these symptoms:

  • Nasal discharge
  • Mucus
  • Pus
  • Bleeding
  • Ulcerations
  • Breathing with heavy snoring sound

Treatment options for nasal tumors include chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Benign tumors can be removed surgically, but malignant tumors require a combination of all the available options. Almost all the treatment options are plagued with serious side effects. The main focus of the treatment is to increase the survival time of the dog. To achieve this goal, usually both surgery and radiation therapy are used.

Nasal tumors are a less common form of feline cancer, but whenever it occurs in cats or in dogs, the prognosis is poor. Malignant tumors often end up in the death of the pet within a few months and prompt treatment can at most improve the quality of life of your pet.


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