Fortunately, throat cancer is very rare in dogs. But unfortunately, some types of tumors in the throat can grow very quickly, and the prognosis is poor if they are not caught early.
“The throat cancer symptoms are important to spot from the early stages of the disease, so that there are several treatment options and the dog can have an encouraging prognosis,” writes vetinfo.com.
“The throat cancer can originate in the esophagus, the trachea or the larynx and will evolve, involving other organs as well.”
Middle-aged and senior dogs are more likely to get this type of cancer, as are male dogs.
What are the Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer?
The good news: esophageal cancer is extremely rare in dogs. According to the National Canine Cancer Foundation (NCCF), “It accounts for even less than 0.5 percent of all canine cancers.”
The NCCF and vetinfo list the following symptoms:
- Vomiting right after eating
- Difficulty and pain when swallowing
- Weight loss
What are the Symptoms of Tracheal Cancer?
This type of cancer will affect your dog’s breathing. Along with the same symptoms for esophageal cancer, doctors advises pet parents to watch for these signs:
- Noisy breathing
- Breathing with his mouth open
- Bluish mucous membranes
What are the Symptoms of Laryngeal Cancer?
“Most tumors that affect the larynx are benign, but there may also be cancerous tumors,” notes vetinfo.
Petmd.com and vetinfo.com list these signs of laryngeal cancer:
- Changes in your dog’s voice
- Inability to bark (this might also be due to allergies so you must check with your vet before assuming anything)
- Showing discomfort when you touch his throat
What Causes Throat Cancer?
The exact cause of throat cancer is not known, according to doctors.
How is Throat Cancer Diagnosed?
After getting your dog’s complete medical history, your vet may perform blood tests, take X-rays and draw samples of lymph node fluid.
“Routine blood tests include a complete blood cell count, biochemistry profile, urinalysis and platelet count. The results are frequently normal in such cases,”
X-rays will reveal whether the tumor has metastasized (spread to other organs). Your dog may also need an MRI or CT scan of his neck and chest to help your vet confirm the diagnosis.
Your vet may take samples of your dog’s lymph node fluids. A high white blood cell count will indicate that your dog’s immune system is likely battling a tumor.
“Another technique your veterinarian may choose is bronchoscopy, by which a tubular device is inserted into the body, in this case through the mouth and down into the windpipe, so that a more detailed visual examination can be conducted,” petmd writes. During this procedure, a biopsy of the surrounding tissue can also be taken.
For esophageal cancer, an esophagram (your dog is X-rayed after swallowing a barium solution) as well as an esophagoscopy (similar to a bronchoscopy, but in the esophagus) may be performed “to determine the stage of the cancer,” writes vetinfo. “The stage of the cancer will determine the best course of treatment and the prognosis of the dog.”
If your dog is diagnosed with neck cancer it is necessary that you will not leash him any more especially in the neck. A rule of thumb for these types of scenarios is to use an invisible fence as an alternative that will not hurt his neck and you will always know where your dog is.
How is Throat Cancer Treated?
Your dog’s tumor and the surrounding tissues will likely be surgically removed.
Vetinfo notes that surgery is usually the best option for treatment, “as it may eliminate all cancerous cells and these may never return. Chemotherapy is still recommended, as the dog’s body may easily produce new cancerous cells, and the drugs will stop the development of these cells.”
For tracheal cancer, part of your dog’s trachea will also be removed, according to petmd. “The affected part of the trachea will need to be removed … and both ends of the normal trachea sutured together, a process referred to as anastomosis,” it notes.
After the surgery, your dog may need to have a feeding tube inserted in his stomach to ensure he gets proper nutrition until he is able to swallow food again. Check our article on how to make the best food for your dog.
Your dog will need plenty of rest, so be sure to keep children and other pets away from him while he recuperates. Your vet may prescribe pain medication to ease your dog’s discomfort. As your dog recovers, supplements like reishi can help build up his immune system.
“A dog that has been affected by this type of cancer may survive for a few months, but even after successful treatment, the life span of such patients is quite low,” writes petmd. “Quality of life is another important consideration and many owners ask for peaceful euthanasia of their dogs rather than have them undergo the stress of surgery.”