CANINE NASAL TUMOUR

The most common symptoms include a nasal discharge which initially is unilateral and can be bloody (epistaxis) or mucopurulent or both. At times, epistaxis can be severe and may be difficult to stop. As the tumor grows, facial deformity from bone erosion of the tumor and a discharge from the eye as a result of obstruction of the nasolacrimal duct are seen. Other conditions such as fungal disease, bacterial or fungal rhinitis, or nasal foreign bodies can present similarly.

Early Stages

  • nasal discharge — initially one-sided
  • sneezing +/- blood
  • noisy breathing
  • exercise intolerance
  • facial swelling
  • decreased appetite — due to worsening sense of smell
  • mild weight loss

 Late Stages

  • persistent early stages
  • profuse nasal bleeding
  • facial deformity and pain
  • open mouth breathing
  • continuous panting — dogs
  • anorexia
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea — often black and tarry
  • vision loss, abnormal eye position
  • dull mentation
  • seizures — if the tumor reaches the brain 

Crisis — Immediate veterinary assistance needed regardless of the disease

  • difficulty breathing
  • prolonged seizures
  • uncontrollable vomiting/diarrhea
  • sudden collapse
  • profuse bleeding — internal or external
  • crying/whining from pain

Nasal tumors are usually locally aggressive, malignant tumors that affect both dogs and cats. The most common tumor originating in the nasal cavity in dogs is adenocarcinoma, while lymphoma is the most common nasal tumor in cats. Animals usually present to their veterinarian for difficulty breathing through the nose, noisy breathing, mucoid/bloody nasal discharge, sneezing, or facial swelling.

Nasal tumors are slow to metastasize (spread), but when they do it is generally to local lymph nodes or to the lungs. Locally invasive tumors eat away at surrounding bone and tissue and obstruct the nasal passage. The tumor type and severity are commonly diagnosed using skull radiographs (X-rays), rhinoscopy, CT scans, and tumor biopsy.Once a tentative diagnosis is made, and prior to advanced imaging, basic tests be performed. A complete clinical work-up includes: Complete blood count (CBC), serum chemistry panel, urinalysis, and clotting profile. Thoracic radiographs (3 views). If blood work and radiographs are normal, vets will usually proceed with a CT to determine localized extent of disease with a biopsy to follow. Because nasal tumors often start in the back portion of the nasal cavity, extension into the brain is possible. CT can determine if this has occurred.

Without treatment, the median survival for patients with nasal carcinomas is 95 days. Patients with some tumor types such as chondrosarcoma, can survive longer periods without treatment, but the majority of patients with other tumor types show relatively rapid progression of disease.

Surgery is a palliative option, but is usually not performed unless the tumor is small and located in the front of the nasal cavity, away from vital organs such as the eyes and the brain. Radiation therapy is the most favorable option for combating this type of cancer in dogs and cats. Chemotherapy is also an option, especially for nasal lymphoma in cats. Piroxicam is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that can be given to provide pain relief and possibly increase survival time

Side effects of radiation therapy can include hair loss in the radiation field (hair will usually grow back a different color), sun-burn like reaction to the skin in the radiation field, inflammation of the tissue in the oral cavity, and dry eye if the eye is in the radiation field (blindness is rare but cataracts are common). Side effects are typically moderate, but can in some cases be significant. However, even in more severe cases, healing is usually rapid.

As with any disease, prognosis is dependent on the severity of the disease and the treatment chosen. Surgery alone holds a 3-6 month median survival time. If left untreated, or as the disease progresses, tumors may completely obstruct the nasal cavity, making it impossible for your animal to breathe normally through its nose. Once at this stage, invasion of the tumor into the brain is likely, leading to neurological disorders.