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Nose Pad Cancer (Squamous Cell Carcinoma) in Dogs

Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Nasal Planum in Dogs

Squamous cell carcinoma of the nasal planum in dogs originates from the tissue in the nose pad or the mucous membranes of the nose. The squamous epithelium, comprised of flat, scale-like cells, serves as the protective covering of internal and external body surfaces. Squamous cell carcinoma denotes a malignant tumor arising from these epithelial cells, typically exhibiting low metastatic potential but high invasiveness.

Exposure to inhaled chemicals, such as those present in coal, cigarettes, and air fresheners used indoors, elevates the risk of nasal tumors. While squamous cell carcinoma in dogs is less common compared to cats, certain factors like larger nasal passages and light pigmented noses may heighten susceptibility. Prolonged sun exposure also contributes to increased risk.

Although no specific breed, gender, or age predisposes dogs to this condition, vigilance is essential, especially for dogs with light pigmented noses and those spending significant time outdoors.

Symptoms and Types

The tumor progresses slowly, often initiating as a superficial crust and scab. Symptoms include decreased airflow through the nose, leading to increased mouth breathing, as well as sneezing and reverse sneezing characterized by sudden, involuntary inward breaths. Other indications encompass nosebleeds (epistaxis), nasal discharge, and swelling in the affected area, potentially extending to the eye and resulting in sight loss. Facial deformity, excessive tears from the eyes (epiphora), and neurological signs such as seizures, disorientation, and behavioral changes may also manifest due to pressure exerted on the brain.

Causes

The causes include prolonged exposure to excessive sunlight, the absence of protective pigment, and exposure to toxic inhalants.

Diagnosis

To diagnose the condition, provide your veterinarian with a comprehensive medical history detailing your dog’s health and the onset of symptoms. A thorough physical examination will be conducted, accompanied by comprehensive laboratory tests including complete blood tests, biochemical profiles, and urinalysis. While these tests typically yield normal results in affected patients, thoracic x-rays may be taken to assess potential lung metastasis, although it is rare.

Your veterinarian will also explore other potential conditions such as dental diseases, aspergillosis, bacterial rhinitis, foreign objects (e.g., plant awns), and parasites (e.g., mites). To establish a precise diagnosis, tissue and fluid samples will be obtained from the affected area. Lymph node samples may also be collected to ascertain the presence of metastasis. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans may offer additional insights into the tumor’s extent and aid in surgical planning for tumor resection.

Treatment

Treatment options vary and depend on the location and severity of the condition. Surgical intervention is typically recommended to remove the affected tissue along with surrounding margins of normal tissue to ensure complete removal. For invasive tumors, a more extensive surgical resection may be necessary, followed by radiation therapy. While chemotherapy may be considered for such cases, its efficacy for this type of cancer is not fully established. Your veterinarian will collaborate with a veterinary oncologist to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your dog.

Living and Management

The overall prognosis is favorable if the tumor is small and superficial, but less positive if it is invasive and metastatic. Treatment decisions, including surgery or chemotherapy, are based on the prognosis. In cases where the tumor is advanced, end-of-life pain management may be necessary. Providing good nutritional support is crucial for maintaining the patient’s body weight and condition.

Before administering chemotherapy medications, always seek advice and instructions from a veterinary oncologist, as these drugs can be highly toxic to human health. Pregnant women, in particular, should exercise caution when handling chemotherapeutic drugs for their pets due to potential risks. Close monitoring by the veterinarian is essential to manage any potential toxic side effects of chemotherapy medications, with dosage adjustments made as needed.

Following surgery, expect your dog to experience some discomfort. Your veterinarian will prescribe pain medication to alleviate this discomfort. Create a comfortable and quiet resting area for your dog indoors, away from other pets, active children, and high-traffic areas. Keep outdoor trips brief and manageable for your dog during the recovery phase. Exercise caution when using pain medications and adhere closely to dosage instructions, as accidental overdose is a preventable risk with pets.

Prevention

Preventive measures can be taken if your dog is at a higher risk of developing this disease. Limiting sun exposure, particularly between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm, is advisable. It’s important to note that sunscreens have not proven effective in preventing this type of tumor.

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