Our sweet baby girl, Abra, a rescue dog we adopted 12 years ago, has nose cancer. It is a devastating diagnosis and we are still numb from learning she has it. I have decided to document our journey, and provide resources we have found, to help other dog parents who may be suffering through the same experience.
How it began
In early fall of 2018 Abra had a coughing spell that included coughing up droplets of blood. The coughing occured for a couple of nights, and we did not see the blood until the second night (very early in the morning). We were able to get her into the vet to find out what was causing the coughing and blood. After x-rays, and blood tests, the vet told us that Abra had probably sniffed in or licked up something rough that had irritated her airways. However, they couldn’t find anything definitive, so they told us to keep an eye on her and let us know if it got worse. The situation didn’t get worse, and she appeared to recover, so we chalked it up to her having found something “interesting” to smell or taste and it made its way through her system without any more issues.
Sneezing & Nose Bleeds
In mid-November / early December 2018 my husband woke from his sleep to hear Abra sneezing very loudly. She has sneezed in the past, but this was a forceful sneeze. My husband is a very sound sleeper, so for him to be woken up by a sneeze means it was really loud. He didn’t think much of it, but he did mention it to me.
A few nights later we both heard the sneeze and then a strange licking noise. We got up, turned on the lights, and took a look at Abra’s face. She had a string of mucus mixed with blood hanging from her left nostril. She was trying very hard to get the string off her nose. We wiped it off and she appeared to be fine and went back to sleep. Of course, this alarmed us, and knowing we had an appointment for her to go in for a teeth cleaning in about a week, we made note to mention it to the doctor.
After this nose bleeding episode we kept a closer eye on Abra. We also started noticing blood drops and streaks of blood on our floors and walls. It became apparent this had been going on for a while. That’s when we started doing some research online for dog nose bleeds. Dog nose bleeds are not normal and can mean an assortment of issues with a dog. The worst of the issues is nose cancer. According to the information we found, dog nose cancer is rare, but a definite sign is blood coming from one nostril.
On December 28, 2018 we took Abra in for her annual teeth cleaning. Our other pup was also there for his cleaning. About an hour after we had left the dogs at the vet they called and said they were afraid the nose bleeding was serious and they did not feel comfortable putting her under anesthesia for the teeth cleaning. They had run a full blood panel on her and could not find anything unusual, so that was the indicator the nose bleed was due to something serious.
Our vet was not equipped to handle nose diagnostics, so they called around and found an Internal Medicine vet who could see Abra. The appointment was made for January 7, 2019. Abra was put on a relatively high dosage of Prednisone until we could see the specialist.
The Internal Medicine vet was all the way across town. It appears that Internal Medicine vets are few and far between and always busy. Thankfully, the vet wasn’t so far that any work had to be missed. When we arrived they took as into the examining room where the vet could check over Abra and get her vitals. The vet looked her over thoroughly. The checks that were most conclusive (without scans) were the checking for air flow on each side of the nose and pressing in slightly under the eye to see if there might be pressure behind the eye. Since Abra’s left eye was weepy (not normal), it was likely there was pressure behind the eye.
The diagnosis and problem list documented by the Internal Medicine vet, and checked, were as follows:
- Sneezing, left-sided epistaxis
- Absent air flow from left naris (nostril)
The vet’s conclusion, without scans, was that Abra has a mass in her nasal cavity. There are other possibilities for the nose bleeds such as allergic rhinitis, inflammation from a foreign object in the nose, or possible fungal infection. However, each of those typically presents with other symptoms which Abra does not show.
The Internal Medicine vet had a long list of tests they could run on Abra to definitively tell us she has cancer and what type. Unfortunately, we did not ask for a copy of the sheet with the numbers, but all total the recommendations of CT scan, rhinoscopy, blood panels, biopsies, and x-rays would have been about $4,000.
Instead, we have chosen to go the palliative route. This is not the decision for everyone. Some will do everything to keep their beloved pet with them and others feel that they don’t want the pet to suffer any more than necessary. We are in the latter category. We love Abra VERY much, and we dread the day she is no longer with us. However, we do not want to see her go through what could be draining treatment just so we can have her for an unknown extended period of time. Every pet mom and dad has to make that decision of “quality of life (QOL)” at some point. We know our sweet dog, we know how she is around veterinarians and pet hospitals, and we know it would be too much for her.
Abra’s medications to date have been Levothyroxine .5 mg for hypothyroidism and Predinsone 20 mg for nasal bleeding.
Abra does not act sick at all. She eats (and begs for more). She still loves to romp outside and play with her toys. Outside of the nose bleeds, and to her it appears to be only an annoyance at this point, she is her regular, lovable, playful, full of spirit self.
The only indicator to us that she might know something is wrong is that she wants to be with my husband more now. At night, before her nose started bleeding, she would eagerly run to the bedroom and settle in for the night before we were even ready to go to bed. Now, if I am in the bedroom and my husband is in the living room she wants to be out there with him. He was the one who took care of her as a puppy when we first adopted her. (I traveled for work.) So, he is her “go to” when she isn’t feeling well.
Dog Nose Cancer Resources
We created the below timeline to document Abra’s cancer, treatment, and progression.
These are dog nose cancer sites and groups we have found helpful.