Oral Tumors in Dogs and Cats
February is Dental Health Month for pets, which typically makes us think of taking care of the teeth dogs and cats to prevent dental disease. However, dogs and cats can also develop cancers within the mouth that can cause problems for them and may require treatment. It is important to recognize signs that may indicate a problem for your pet so your veterinarian can check things out and recommend additional tests or treatment if needed.
Most pets with oral cancer do not get taken to the veterinarian because the tumor is actually visible in the mouth, as they can be difficult to see without a thorough mouth exam. The most common reasons that pets are presented for an exam are related to the mass and include:
- Foul odor coming from the mouth
- Blood-tinged saliva noticed in food/water bowl or on pet’s fur
- Difficulty eating, dropping food, or gagging on food or water
- Pawing at the mouth
- Loss of appetite or suddenly refusing dry kibble or hard treats
- If a mass is located far back in the mouth, labored or noisy breathing may be noticed
In some cases, animals show no clinical signs prior to diagnosis and the mass is discovered during the course of a routine dental procedure.
If a mass is discovered, a biopsy is the most effective way to make a diagnosis. There are benign masses within the mouth that can be cured with surgery alone, and there are malignant tumors that can spread to other parts of the body, such as lymph nodes and lungs, even if the tumor is removed.
The most common type of oral tumors differ between dogs and cats. The most common oral tumor in dogs is melanoma, while cats are more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma. Some other oral tumors that can occur in either species include osteosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, and plasma cell tumors. The type of tumor diagnosed allows your veterinarian to determine the best route of treatment and to give you the most information about prognosis.
Treatment for oral tumors varies. Surgery may be the first step in treatment, but not all tumors located in the mouth can be treated with surgery. Radiation therapy is an effective treatment for many oral cancers, but is not required in all cases. Depending on the type of tumor diagnosed, chemotherapy may be recommended to delay metastasis, or spread, of the cancer. One innovative treatment for oral melanoma is the melanoma vaccine, which helps the patient’s own immune system fight the cancer.
If your pet has been diagnosed with an oral tumor, or you have concerns about an oral mass in your pet, we are happy to discuss treatment options. Dr. Beck, our oncologist, offers the melanoma vaccine as well as other treatments for oral tumors.
Please contact us at 318-797-5522.
I am here for any question you may have!
Dr. Amanda Beck