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.