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Nasal Tumors in Dogs

What Are Nasal Tumors in Dogs?

Nasal tumors in dogs typically emerge within the nasal passages and are among the prevalent forms of canine cancers. Cancer in dogs results from mutations in cell genes, prompting abnormal cell division. Often, nasal tumors reach a considerable size before detection. While they generally do not metastasize to other body parts, untreated nasal tumors can cause severe damage to the nose and face.


The most prevalent types of nasal tumors in dogs can be categorized as follows:

  • Adenocarcinomas arise from mucus-secreting glands in the nasal passages and typically do not metastasize but can inflict significant damage to nasal tissues. These tumors are frequently observed in medium- to large-sized older dogs, usually aged between 10 to 12 years, with elongated noses.
  • Sarcomas develop within the connective tissues of the nasal and paranasal sinuses. These tissues include robust, fibrous structures like bone, muscle, and cartilage. Sarcomas are further classified based on their location:
  • Chondrosarcomas originate in nasal cartilage and are more common in younger dogs, with an average diagnosis age of 7 years. Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Boxers, and German Shepherds are more predisposed to this type.
  • Fibrosarcomas arise from connective tissues surrounding nasal bones.
  • Osteosarcomas originate in nasal bones and are more frequently found in the limbs.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma affects the nasal planum, the hairless tip of a dog’s nose. This cancer is rare but detectable early due to its visibility on the nose surface. It’s more prevalent in males and Labrador Retrievers.
  • Transmissible Venereal Tumor (TVT) is a contagious tumor that can spread among dogs, often appearing on genitalia in warmer regions like the southern United States. In some cases, it manifests as a red mass on the nose that tends to crumble off. TVT is more common in intact dogs.


Nasal tumors commonly develop within the nasal passages and often remain unnoticed until they reach an advanced stage. Early symptoms of nasal tumors may resemble those of an upper respiratory tract infection or allergies, leading to treatment with antibiotics, antihistamines, or steroids. While initial response to such treatments is possible, as the disease progresses, relief from clinical signs becomes unattainable. Signs indicative of nasal tumors in dogs may include:

  • Sneezing or reverse sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Foul breath, which may result from tumors extending into the mouth
  • Nasal discharge, often resembling pus and possibly streaked with blood, emanating from one or both nostrils
  • Epistaxis (nosebleeds)
  • Noisy breathing and sudden snoring
  • Reduced appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Swelling around the nose, protruding eyes, or other facial abnormalities

If nasal tumors metastasize to the brain, dogs may exhibit neurological symptoms, such as changes in behavior, confusion, weakness, sudden onset of blindness, or seizures.


The causes of nasal tumors in dogs are multifactorial, involving genetic predispositions and environmental influences. While any dog can potentially develop a nasal tumor, they are more commonly observed in medium-to-large breeds and older dogs with elongated noses.

Residing in urban environments increases the likelihood of nasal tumor development, likely due to heightened exposure to pollutants present in the nasal passages. Additionally, dogs exposed to cigarette smoke may face an elevated risk of nasal tumor formation.


Veterinarians typically employ imaging tests such as x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs to diagnose nasal tumors in dogs. While x-rays serve as an initial screening tool for nasal tumor presence, more advanced imaging techniques like CT scans and MRIs are necessary to assess the extent of tumor advancement (referred to as staging) and devise an appropriate treatment strategy. CT scans often offer the most detailed images for evaluating cancer spread.

Furthermore, it is crucial to understand the underlying cause of the tumor, necessitating the collection and examination of cells from the tumor itself. Despite nasal tumors typically not metastasizing, veterinarians must verify the absence of metastasis when planning treatment. Biopsies of lymph nodes are conducted to detect cancerous cell presence. Additional diagnostic measures such as bloodwork, chest x-rays, and potentially abdominal ultrasounds are performed to assess the spread of cancer.


Upon diagnosis of nasal tumors in dogs, radiation therapy emerges as the preferred treatment option. While a cure is improbable, radiation therapy effectively mitigates symptoms and enhances the quality of life. Combining surgery with radiation therapy may be advised to bolster treatment response and heighten the possibility of cancer remission.

The selection of radiation therapy type hinges on the tumor’s proximity to critical structures like the brain and eyes, as radiation therapy can potentially harm healthy tissue. If the tumor appears to have invaded the cribriform plate near the brain, a treatment known as stereotactic radiation might be suggested. This approach administers radiation in smaller doses. In certain instances of nasal tumors in dogs, veterinarians may recommend Palladia, an anti-cancer medication, alongside radiation therapy to facilitate tumor shrinkage.

Living and Management

Recovery and management of nasal tumors in dogs seldom lead to a cure; however, radiation therapy significantly enhances the quality of life and often prompts a clinical response within 2-3 weeks of treatment initiation. Dogs undergoing radiation therapy typically experience a median survival period of 12-18 months, a considerable improvement compared to a median survival period of 2-6 months if left untreated.

Apart from targeting the tumor, symptom management medications may also be incorporated into the treatment regimen. Initially, antibiotics, antihistamines, and/or steroids may alleviate nasal discharge. As the disease progresses, appetite stimulants may be necessary to encourage dogs to eat.

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