Just like humans, pets can develop oral tumors, which are an abnormal accumulation of cells that form in the mouth. A pet’s mouth is composed of several different types of cells, all of which can become cancerous.
Some tumors are considered benign, meaning they are not cancerous and typically will not spread. Others are malignant, which tend to be aggressive and spread quickly.
Causes of Tumors
Unfortunately, the cause of most tumors is not straightforward. Very few oral cancers have a single direct cause. In most instances, they are a combination of many risk factors, including being hereditary. See breeds below that are more susceptible than others to oral cancers.
German Shorthaired Pointers
Miniature and Standard Poodles
What are the Symptoms of Oral Tumors?
Oral tumors can have various symptoms depending on factors related to the mass. Examples of these factors include tumor type, size, and how far it has spread. Melanomas may be pigmented or nonpigmented, and may appear cauliflower or nodular-like.
The masses may initially present as swelling around the tooth or gums. This is why it is important to biopsy any enlargement or swelling of the gum tissue.
Tumors can also cause swelling on the soft and hard palates of the mouth. Although some oral tumors appear small, they can extend far into the deep tissue and invade the underlying bone.
Signs Associated with Oral Masses or Tumors
- Difficulty eating
- Lack of appetite
- Blood in their saliva
- Reluctance to be touched
- Swollen lymph nodes
How is Oral Cancer Diagnosed?
The only way to accurately diagnose oral cancer is to do a microscopic examination of the tumor cells. Diagnosis most often involves a thorough oral examination under anesthesia.
A biopsy of tissue or bone is obtained. The sample of cells from the tumor is sent to a pathologist who examines them under a microscope. The process is called histopathology, and it gives a better picture of how the tumor is likely to progress, and whether it will stay local or spread.
Histopathology can also determine which type of treatment should be pursued, as well as the prognosis.