Long Term Side Effects of Radiation Therapy

Last Modified: January 20, 2008


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

My Jack Russell Terrier had radiation on his face about 2 years ago. Since the treatment finished, his nose is dry and scaly, and his nostrils are full of mucus. I have to clean his nose out several times a day, and I put vitamin E oil on it daily. I have been trying to find a cure or at least something to help alleviate the symptoms. Can you offer me any advice?


Lili Duda, VMD, Section Editor of the OncoLink Veterinary Oncology Menu, responds:

Chronic changes to the nasal and oral tissues are a common long-term complication of radiation therapy in the head and neck of a dog. Unlike people, dogs seem to have relatively few symptoms associated with decreased saliva production and "dry mouth". On the other hand, dogs often suffer from a chronic "stuffy nose", with a dry and crusty nasal planum (nose tip). While there are no cures for these conditions, there are several things that can be done to help alleviate symptoms. For the stuffy nose, you can try putting the dog into a hot steamy bathroom as often as possible. The warm, moist air helps loosen secretions and makes the dog more comfortable. Saline nose drops (available at any pharmacy) once or twice a day can also help keep tissues moist if the dog will tolerate it. For the nose tip, a very thin layer of petroleum jelly applied frequently can help keep the tissue moist. You can use vitamin E oil or unscented hand lotion first, allow it to soak into the dried tissues, and then apply the petroleum jelly on top to help retain the moisture.