Nasal Cancer in Dogs

Posted by Lianne McLeod D.V.M. on

Nasal Cancer in Dogs

Nasal tumors in canines, constitute about 1-2% of all canine cancers and predominantly occur in the nasal passages and paranasal sinuses. Typically, these tumors reach a substantial size before diagnosis, so they treatment is often started late. 

In this article, we will look at the complexities surrounding nasal tumors in dogs‚ÄĒunderstanding their types, causes, and the emotional journey accompanying a diagnosis. We will provide insights that empower you as a pet owner to navigate the path ahead with knowledge, compassion, and hope.

lavender cancer ribbon

Types of Nasal Tumors In Dogs

Canine tumors are caused by the uncontrolled multiplication of cells in the nasal cavity. There are various types of canine nasal cancers; some are benign and others are malignant. 

Benign tumors are non-cancerous growths that, while still requiring attention, don't possess the invasive and metastatic qualities associated with malignancy. Malignant tumors are cancerous and can spread to other parts of the body. Their aggressive nature demands swift and comprehensive medical attention.

The most common nasal tumor types in dogs are:

  1. Nasal Adenocarcinoma

These cancers originate in the glands and are known for their invasive nature. Nasal adenocarcinoma often infiltrates surrounding tissues, therefore early diagnosis is important.

  1. Squamous Cell Carcinomas

These tumors typically develop on the nasal planum, the hairless external surface of the nose. While they might not spread as rapidly as some counterparts, they tend to be locally aggressive, affecting surrounding normal tissue.

  1. Chondrosarcomas

This nasal cancer is found on the nose cartilage. They mostly affect young dogs. 

  1. Fibrosarcomas

Fibrosarcomas originates from the connective tissue surrounding the bones within the nasal area. 

What Causes Nasal Tumor In Dogs?

There are many causes of dog nasal cancer including, environmental factors and breed type. 

  1. Environmental Factors 

environmental pollutants

Factors like air pollution, and secondhand tobacco smoke, among other factors, may contribute to the development of a nasal tumor. The nasal cavity, with its direct exposure to these pollutants, is susceptible to environmental influences. These pollutants mostly affect dogs living in urban environments. They are at a higher risk of getting nasal cancer.

  1. Breed/Genetics

dog breed

Every dog breed has its unique genetic make-up. Nasal tumors are prevalent in medium-to-large breeds, however, it's not a hard and fast rule.  Additionally, our older dogs seem to be more susceptible to these tumors as they age.

Signs and Symptoms of Dogs with Nasal Cancer

There are common clinical signs that point to an underlying growing tumor. Look out for these common symptoms of cancer in dogs and seek advice from your Vet.

magnifying class, look for symptoms
  1. Nasal Discharge 

Check your dog for abnormal runny nose. A nasal discharge full of mucus, pus, and blood is an indicator of a nasal tumor. 

  1.  Bleeding

Regular nose bleeding is another sign of an underlying tumor. Normally, bleeding can be caused by several things including injury to the nose, allergies, upper respiratory infection, or a tumor. However, if you notice persistent bleeding, take your dog to the veterinarian for examination, this could be a sign of nose cancer. 

  1. Persistent Sneezing and Coughing

A dog's excessive sneezing bouts could be a subtle sign from their respiratory system. Coupled with an unexplained cough, these signs may be signaling an underlying issue within the nasal passage, including nasal tumors.

  1. Changes in Breathing Patterns

Unexplained wheezing, difficulty breathing, or any other audible change in breathing, like noisy breathing, are signs that beckon our attention, prompting a closer inspection into the respiratory health of our loyal companions.

  1. Loss of Appetite and Weight Loss

A sudden show of disinterest in meals is a red flag not to be ignored. Nasal tumors, by their nature, can impact a dog's sense of smell and thus appetite, leading to unintended weight loss. Recognizing these changes in their eating habits becomes pivotal to early detection.

  1. Facial Deformities or Swelling

In the advanced stages of a nasal tumor, physical manifestations may become apparent. Facial deformities or swelling can be indicators of the local impact as the tumor grows, underscoring the urgency for intervention.

  1. Seizures

Nasal tumors can metastasize into the brain and lead to neurological signs like seizures. 

Diagnostic Procedures

Diagnosis methods for nasal dog cancer include:

vet treating a dog

  1. Physical Assessments

Through examinations and physical assessments by a veterinary professional, any signs of nasal tumors can be uncovered. The physical examination can involve checking for facial deformity and obstruction of the nasal cavity.

  1. Imaging Techniques: X-rays, CT Scan, MRIs

Advanced imaging techniques like X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs are the tools that allow us to peer beneath the surface, revealing the extent of nasal tumors. X-rays determine the presence of tumors, while CT scans and MRIs determine how far the tumors have spread. 

  1. Biopsy Procedures

After getting nasal tumors diagnosed, the next step is to do a biopsy. A tissue biopsy is a medical procedure in which a small sample of tissue is taken from a specific part of the body for further examination. Whether through minimally invasive methods or more extensive surgical interventions, the extraction of tissue samples helps to confirm the nature of nasal tumors.  A nasal biopsy is done by passing a forceps up the nostril and into the tumor and helps to diagnose nose cancer.

It is always necessary for vets to carry out further examinations like lung radiographs, abdominal ultrasounds, and examination of lymph nodes to check if the cancer has metastasized. This step is crucial and informs the treatment plan.


There are two most recommended treatment options; radiation therapy and Stereotactic Radiation.

treatment methods
  1. Radiation Therapy

Radiation Therapy is a non-surgical option for the treatment of nasal tumors. Surgery in the nasal region is often difficult therefore, focused radiation shrinks or eliminates tumors while preserving surrounding healthy tissues.

  1. Stereotactic Radiation (SRS/SRT)

Stereotactic radiation (SRS/SRT), a new treatment option,  brings a new dimension to the treatment paradigm. This precise and focused, high-dose radiation therapy targets tumors with unparalleled accuracy, offering a cutting-edge approach to combat nasal tumors.  Stereotactic radiation therapy allows the treatment of tumors that were previously deemed untreatable and provides swift recovery with minimal to no adverse effects.

Radiation therapy and Stereotactic radiation, are effective options to manage dog nasal cancer. Your veterinary oncologist will advise on the best option for your pet since every case is different. Some forms of nasal tumors may recur after 1 year or so, especially if the diagnosis uncovers an advanced tumor. These treatment plans, offer relief and allow your dog to live a healthy comfortable life.

Side Effects of Treatment

The side effects of treatment for nasal tumors in dogs can vary depending on the specific type of treatment used. Here are some general side effects:

  • Radiation therapy may cause mild to moderate skin irritation in the area being treated. This irritation can manifest as redness, itching, or hair loss.

  • In some cases, radiation therapy can lead to long-term changes in the skin and underlying tissues. These changes are generally manageable and are closely monitored by the veterinary team.

It's crucial to note that each dog may respond differently, and the severity of side effects can vary. Veterinarians work closely with pet owners to manage and mitigate these effects, striving to maintain the best possible quality of life for the dog throughout the treatment process. Regular communication with the veterinary team is essential to address any concerns and make adjustments to the treatment plan if necessary.

Palliative Care for Advanced Cases

In instances where the progression of nasal tumors has reached an advanced stage, palliative care is a compassionate approach. Focused on enhancing the quality of life, palliative care aims to alleviate symptoms, manage pain, and provide comfort. This facet of care becomes pivotal, offering solace and support to both pets and their dedicated human companions.

Prognosis and Life Quality

Understanding the prognosis of nasal tumors in dogs involves navigating a landscape influenced by various factors. The tumor type, stage, location, and the dog's overall health contribute to the prognosis.

prognosis of nasal cancers

Malignant tumors may pose greater challenges, emphasizing the significance of early intervention. Dogs diagnosed and treated in the early stages often experience improved outcomes, highlighting the crucial role of timely veterinary care. Early intervention not only enhances treatment efficacy but also plays a pivotal role in achieving a higher life expectancy for dogs diagnosed with nasal cancer.

The quality of life considerations extend beyond the treatment phase. Veterinary teams prioritize not only the eradication of tumors but also the overall well-being of the dog. Balancing aggressive treatments with the maintenance of a good quality of life is a delicate balance. This balance involves managing symptoms, minimizing side effects, and addressing any changes in behavior or comfort. A pet parent is an integral partner in this journey, actively participating in decisions to ensure their beloved companions experience the highest possible quality of life throughout and after treatment.

Coping with Nasal Tumors

Emotional resilience becomes a cornerstone for pet owners navigating the complexities of dog nasal tumors. The journey involves not only the physical well-being of the dogs but also the emotional rollercoaster experienced by the pet parent.

The realization that a beloved pet is facing a health challenge can evoke a range of emotions, from worry to grief. Acknowledging and addressing these emotional aspects is crucial, fostering an environment where pet owners feel supported and informed.

Support groups and resources become invaluable lifelines for those traversing this path. Connecting with others who have experienced or are experiencing similar challenges provides a sense of community and understanding.

Online forums, local support groups, or resources provided by veterinary professionals can offer insights, empathy, and practical advice. Sharing experiences and learning from others can be a source of comfort, helping pet owners navigate both the practical and emotional dimensions of their journey.

Regular veterinary check-ups emerge not only as a preventive measure but as an active strategy for coping with nasal tumors. Consistent monitoring allows for early detection of any recurrence or new developments, providing a proactive approach to managing the health of the dog.

These check-ups serve not only as medical assessments but also as opportunities for open communication between pet parents and veterinary professionals. In this collaborative effort, early detection becomes a powerful tool for addressing potential challenges promptly, ensuring the best possible outcomes for our loyal companions.

Prevention and Risk Mitigation

Here, we delve into three key pillars that fortify our proactive stance in the face of potential health challenges.

prevention of nasal cancer in dogs
  1. Regular Veterinary Check-ups

Regular veterinary check-ups are the cornerstone of preventive care, akin to routine wellness rehearsals for our pets. This approach ensures that potential causes of cancer in dogs are identified in their infancy, fostering a proactive approach to maintaining our pets' vitality.

  1. Environmental Considerations

Environmental considerations encompass choices in nutrition, and minimizing exposure to potential hazards like tobacco smoke and pollutants.  Creating a canine-friendly environment provides a haven where their health thrives, minimizing the risk of cancer in dogs. This mindful approach not only enhances physical health but also contributes to the overall happiness and vitality of our cherished companions.

  1. Genetic Screening for Breeds with Genetic Predisposition to Nasal Tumors

Genetic screening becomes a powerful tool in identifying predispositions to nasal tumors, enabling proactive measures to mitigate risks. This proactive approach is especially pertinent for breeds with known predispositions for cancer in dogs, allowing us to navigate their health journey with foresight and tailored interventions.

In Conclusion

Now that we have understood what nasal tumors are and the complexities of diagnostic procedures, treatment options, and prognosis methods, we are now equipped to handle this health challenge. The knowledge we've gained will steer us toward proactive care for dogs with nasal cancer.

Stay on the lookout for clinical signs & symptoms of nasal cancer, and consult your Vet for further investigation. If canine nasal cancer is discovered, your Vet will help you come up with a treatment plan best suited for your dog. 

Advances in veterinary medicine continue to shape the landscape of nasal tumor intervention, offering new avenues for early detection, groundbreaking therapies, and improved survival time. The collaboration between devoted pet owners and the tireless efforts of veterinary professionals cultivates an environment where hope flourishes, helping to achieve clinical remission.


  1. Ryan Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. (n.d.). Nasal Tumor Treatment in Dogs Clinical Oncology Service.

  2. Elliot KM, Mayer MN. (2009). Radiation therapy for tumors of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses in dogs. Canadian Veterinary Journal. 2009;50(3):309-312.



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Lianne McLeod, DVM, is a former writer for The Spruce Pets, contributing articles for 11 years. Before Dr. McLeod began writing about pet care, she worked several years in small animal practice. She has written extensively about the care and keeping of exotic pets and pet health care. She now researches water quality and chronic disease at the University of Saskatchewan. Lianne McLeod earned her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. She also received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Simon Fraser University. She continued her education and received a Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the University of Saskatchewan. Now, she splits her time between her family, research and writing about pet health for all the animal lovers out there.
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