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Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumor

Species: Dog
Breed: Miniature American E
Age: 5-8 years
Two years ago, Sheena was diagnosed with neurofibrosarcoma, or peripheral nerve sheath tumor (PNST), after I found a tumor on her front leg. We had it removed with success, since it was still small. Our vet told me that this was a mostly non-malignant cancer, and if tumors spread, it would do so from the area the tumor was and that with this cancer, the quality/length of life was rarely disrupted. I did some further research at the time and was able to find out in addition only that it was a very rare occurring cancer.

Recently, my attention was turned (out of curiosity) to various natural supplements for dogs with cancer, more specifically the K9 products from Aloha Medicinals at I decided to do some more research on PNST, and was able to find more information. Now, information on PNST included the tumors rarely metastasizing to the lungs, if they moved from the limbs.

I followed that tangent, and then got to worrying a little bit when I read about symptoms of lung cancer in dogs: for the past month or month and a half, Sheena has occasionally had a hacking, dry cough that lasts for hours, or even a whole day once. When she had the cough all day, it was accompanied by a dry, hot nose, which she also gets occasionally. The symptom that most dogs diagnosed with lung cancer shared was a "non-productive" cough. Sheena has only had these coughs 4 or 5 times in the time she has started them, and only the one time all day, but now I feel like I really need to know if it could be caused by a metastatic tumor(s) in her lungs, because apparently, lung tumors are usually fatal, and metastatic tumors cannot be removed by surgery. Other than the cough, she has shown no other symptoms listed such as loss of energy or appetite.

I am looking for any advice or further information on PNST, PNST tumors metastasizing to the lungs, metastatic lung cancer and treatments, or anything possibly related such as this cough. I am leaning toward having chest x-rays done unless the question can be settled as something else. I am looking for additional sources of information outside of our vet for added angles.

I appreciate the time you are taking to help me.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

It looks like you have done a great amount of research on peripheral nerve sheath tumors.

There are two types of PNSTs. One is what some vets call a hemangiopericytoma. These usually grow on limbs. These tumors don't usually spread to other organs, but in rare cases they can spread to the lungs or to lymph nodes in the abdomen. The biggest problem with these is that they sometimes grow back again even after being fully removed with surgery.

The other type of PNST is much more serious. This is the type that actually grows on major nerves such as the "brachial plexus" which is the collection of nerves that is in the armpit. These are extremely difficult to cure.

It really sounds like Sheena had the first type of tumor. This means that although it's possible for cancer to spread to the lungs, it is very unlikely.

There are a few possible reasons for the cough that you described. If the cough is new and hacking it could be a virus such as kennel cough. The next possibility is a problem with her heart. If this is what is going on, we have good medications to help support the heart. And yes, cancer is a possibility, but my guess is this is not cancer.

I do think that it is a good idea to have some xrays done. If there was cancer in the chest that was causing a cough it should be very evident on xrays.

I hope that helps. Let me know if you have more concerns.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thank you for the additional info in PNST: you are correct, it was the first kind of tumor.

I think it's pretty safe to rule out kennel cough, as Sheena (and her sister) get the Bordetella vaccine, and her sister has never had coughing fits.

You mention heart trouble, and this is interesting to me. What it reminded me of was when I read about how sometimes in racehorses, their hearts grow to such a massive size from the strenuous cardiac exercise that sometimes they actually burst or don't fit in the chest cavity (I can't remember details)

Sheena is a very physically fit dog. Her sister is in good shape too, but at the same weight she is taller and not nearly as heavily muscled. They both get out and run around every day (we live in the country so they get to run around whenever they want) and they love to run, prefer it to walking I think.

So could there be parallels here with the racehorses? maybe a little bit too much muscle on Sheena's frame? Or maybe now that she's reaching middle age, there's just too much too-fast-paced activity?

I apologize if I'm asking too many questions, it's just so much better to get the correct answers instead of following false leads through internet searches.

Thank you again for the insight, even though there could be another problem here, any option to lung tumors seems better. I feel much better prepared to get her taken care of.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hi Katie. What you described in racehorses is very interesting! But I have never heard of such a thing happening in dogs.

No need to worry about asking questions! That's why I'm here!

Customer reply:

Well, that's good to hear. Now, one last question for you. Now that I feel much better informed on all these serious, gloomy outcomes, what do you think the chance is that she could just be reacting to the dry winter air?

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

It's really not common to see a dog cough because of dry air. I do think there has to be a medical reason for this.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.