X-rays Needed to Diagnose Dog’s Nasal Tumor

Cancer is the most likely cause of older dog’s bloody nasal discharge.


Q. I have a 15-year-old, neutered, black Labrador whom I’ve raised since age 4 months. Two years ago, he survived a right thyroid cancer removal surgery. He has some hypertension. He is taking levothyroxine, prazosin and milk thistle. For the past couple of months, he has been sneezing and snorting with no visible production.

In the past two weeks, he has had blood-tinged, snotty drainage from his left nostril when he sneezes. I took him to the vet who thought he might have allergy problems and a sinus infection. The vet prescribed Cipro and ranitidine. My Lab still has clear, slightly thickened nasal drainage with blood when he sneezes.

His appetite is still good with a firm stool, and no major weight loss.

What is causing the sneezing and bloody nasal drainage when sneezing? When he’s not sneezing, he’s got some clear, runny drainage.

A. A bloody discharge from just one side of the nose in an older dog is cause for concern. The first concern I would have would be a tumor up in the nasal passageway. As unpleasant as it is to deal with, cancer is the No. 1 natural cause of death in dogs.

Another possibility is a fungal infection. This is more or less likely depending on what part of the country you live in.

To make the diagnosis, some skull X-rays should be done first. They may show an erosion of bone on the left side. The most accurate confirmation of the diagnosis is made with a small scope that is passed up the nose, under anesthesia, to visualize the nasal passages. The challenge to doing the scoping procedure, known as rhinoscopy, is the general anesthesia required and the risk of bleeding.
The treatment for a nasal tumor, if that is what your dog has, is usually a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. These kinds of advanced treatments usually must be done at a veterinary specialty center.
At 15, your dog statistically does not have a long life expectancy, so like many dog owners you may choose not to put him through a lot of diagnostic tests. You can take some solace from the fact that he has outlived most other dogs of his breed and size.
You may want to continue with the current treatment plan as long as he seems reasonably comfortable, and possibly add in an anti-inflammatory medication with some anti-cancer properties like Feldene. Ask your veterinarian about Feldene.
You are dealing with some difficult choices, where you have to balance quality of life issues with the availability of invasive diagnostics and treatment that may potentially have some side effects. Hopefully your veterinarian can help guide you through some of these decisions.


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Debby2   Melbourne, FL

6/5/2016 11:38:39 AM

My dog Bandit started having noisy breathing about 1 1/2 years ago.... he acted like he was struggling to breath at time...no drainage at all.... took him to the vet.... they took xrays... vet said didn't see anything suspicious (she actually told me she didn't see any cancer because no bones were eroded)... prescribed antibiotics in case of infection. didn't clear up so about week later went back and the vet did a tube in his nose to collect mucus.... nothing suspicious with the mucus... finally I told the vet there is definitely something wrong with this dog so he suggested an MRI... a few days later I took my dog into the diagnostic vet and they did an MRI and rhinoscope and said he had cancer in his sinus. the tumor was so far back in his sinuses that they couldn't do a biopsy without fear of damaging his brain...the tumor had actually started to invade the bony wall of the skull between his sinus and his brain....

Took him to the oncologist and my dog was put on Palladia... (its a new chemo specially for dogs). He also has to take Benadyl for congestion, Mucinex to help drainage and an anti inflammatory for
We are no 1 1/2 years after diagnosis and so far so good. He does have a tendency to get sinus infections so he gets put on Doxyclycine every so often for
Please please if your dog is experiencing even heavy snoring type breathing while awake or the drainage... take him to the nearest diagnostic center for an MRI.... his tumor never showed up on an xray.

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Mary   Campton, NH

8/4/2011 12:55:21 PM

My dog had a similar problem. When she was 8, she began "coughing" and sneezing. At first the vet thought it was kennel cough, but the medication didn't help. Then the nosebleeds started out of her right nostril. At first they were very minor, a drip here and there. Very quickly, within weeks, the nosebleeds because very intense, coming on often and strong. Sometimes they would last for an hour at a time and we had no way to control them. We did the CAT scan and Rhinoscopy as our vet recommended, and our Diggy was diagnosed with nasal cancer. After finding out how aggressive this type of cancer is, we opted to skip the radiation and try a holistic vet. We made all of her food, had her on a ton of herbs and vitamins, and we ended up losing her two months after she was diagnosed.

If you are going through the same thing, I would seriously consider doing the paleative radiation...at least to give your dog more time.

One thing that ABSOLUTELY helped with the nosebleeds was a chinese herbal capsule called Yunan Baiyo. We gave it to her twice a day and kept it with us if she got a bad nosebleed. Also, we had a narcotic painkiller for her that helped to relax her and I believed that helped the nosebleeds stop faster.

Good luck to you all. By no means is nasal cancer an easy thing to watch your precious friend go through.

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Toni   Mesquite, TX

4/23/2010 10:15:53 AM

I have been going through a similar situation with my nine year old collie. She has had a nasal scope, various antibiotics, and fungal medication. I think it must be a tumor, although they did not see one. I have been told they can be difficult to detect. I think this article is helpful for those going through this problem with their pet.

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