While mouth cancer—usually called oral cancer—in dogs can occur at any age, the most common age for a dog to be diagnosed with oral cancer is 11 years. Here, our Johns Creek veterinary team explains some of the symptoms to look out for and any available treatments you dog may have if they are diagnosed with mouth cancer.
What is oral cancer?
Like people's mouths, our canine companions' oral cavities are made up of a number of different kinds of cells, from skin and fibrous cells to bone cells. When cancer is present in any of these cells, they begin to change and divide uncontrollably, forming tumors and invading healthy nearby tissues.
Some kinds of cancer grow quite slowly and aren't likely to spread to the rest of your pet's body, while others are more aggressive and can swift spread from one part of your dog's body to another.
In dogs, the most common types of oral cancer are melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and fibrosarcoma.
What causes oral cancer in dogs?
In most instances, it's nearly impossible to determine the cause of oral cancer in your dog. However, there are a wide range of both environmental and genetic risk factors that may be at the root of mouth cancer in dogs. Breeds with a somewhat increased risk of developing mouth cancer can include Weimaraners, German shepherds, boxers, chows, and miniature poodles.
What does cancer look like in a dog's mouth?
The average age of dogs diagnosed with mouth cancer is 11 years of, although this disease can be found in pups of any age. Because of this, it's important for pet owners to know the signs of this condition to quickly detect whether or not your dog is showing symptoms.
If your dog has oral tumors, they appear as bumps or swelling in the gums or around their teeth, on the roof of their mouth or anywhere else in your pup's oral cavity. These tumors may break open and bleed, potentially leading to infection.
Depending on the size, type and location of your dog's tumor, as well as cancer's propensity to spread, oral cancer tumors in dogs can be darker in color than the surrounding tissue (pigmented) or non-pigmented, they could also appear as smooth lumps or be more cauliflower-like in appearance.
What are the most common symptoms of mouth cancer in dogs?
The most common symptoms of oral cancer in dogs include excessive drooling, bleeding from the mouth, bad breath issues chewing their food, visible lumps, loose teeth reluctance to eat swollen faces and a noticeable loss of weight.
What is the treatment for oral cancer in dogs?
Surgery is generally the most successful treatment for mouth cancer in dogs. If it is diagnosed early and the tumor is easy for your vet to access, a surgery may even be able to cure your pet's cancer.
For other pups, surgery can remove a large portion of their jaw in order to eliminate mouth cancer in its more advanced stages to try and ensure all of the cancer calls are eliminated.
While chemotherapy isn't generally considered effective as a treatment for mouth cancer in dogs, your vet may recommend radiation therapy or immunotherapy following surgery, to help kill cancer cells and allow your pet to recover.
Radiation can also be used in place of surgery if the tumor is too difficult to reach, or too advanced, to be removed by your veterinary oncologist, or can be used to supplement surgical treatment. Radiation for oral cancer in dogs can cause redness, inflammation or ulceration of the mouth in some cases, but these symptoms typically clear up about a week after the radiation is administered.
How Long Can dogs live with oral cancer?
The early diagnosis and treatment of oral cancer is critical to a positive outcome to your dog's treatment. If a tumor in the mouth is detected early, depending on the kind of cancer and its location, there is a possibility that the tumor may be removed surgically, allowing a dog to live happily and healthily for many years.
That said, if your dog's oral cancer isn't detected until the later stages, there is a good chance that cancer will have already spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body. Sadly, dogs who are diagnosed in later stages may only live for another 6 months to year.
If not promptly treated, the prognosis for dogs with oral cancer is very poor. On average, there is a survival time of only 65 days.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.