Learning that your beloved pet has a growth in their mouth is daunting. It’s an experience no pet owner wants to go through. However, early recognition and an accurate diagnosis of the oral mass can result in more treatment options and a better prognosis for your pet. Here is a brief breakdown of what the process looks like if you currently suspect your pet may have an oral tumor:
1. Identifying Oral Masses Early
Recognize the Signs
Pets with an oral mass may show one or more of the following signs:
- Bad Breath
- Oral Bleeding
- Difficulty Picking Up Food
- Pawing at Mouth
- Reluctance to Eat
It’s important to note that some oral masses may have few clinical signs until they have become quite large.
Regular Veterinary Visits
Regular wellness exams and annual dental cleaning and radiographs, as recommended by your family veterinarian, are important because masses are often found at these times.
Oral Health Care at Home
A routine oral home care program that includes daily brushing increases the chance that you will notice abnormalities or changes in your pet’s mouth that should be promptly evaluated by your family veterinarian.
2. Getting a Diagnosis
Dental x-rays are essential for diagnosis and surgical planning for pets with oral masses. In many cases, advanced imaging with a CT scan can offer more precise information regarding the extent of the mass, as well as evaluation of any spread of the tumor to lymph nodes or lungs.
Biopsy of Oral Mass
After imaging, a biopsy sample is submitted to the lab for histopathology. This is necessary to diagnose any oral mass. Getting an accurate diagnosis is critical for planning and prognosis.
3. Understanding the Three Classifications of Oral Masses
Originate in or around the mouth and have the potential to spread to other parts of the body.
Do not spread to other parts of the body, but can be locally aggressive and should be treated right away.
Often treated by addressing the underlying cause of inflammation, which is often dental disease.
The images below are examples of three different types of oral masses.
4. Treatment Options
For most oral masses, surgery to remove the mass is the best first step whenever possible. Your family veterinarian may choose to refer you to a board-certified veterinary dentist and oral surgeon for the surgery. They may also advise a consultation with a board-certified veterinary oncologist to learn about additional therapy options, such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or a combination of these.
Early recognition is key to maintaining your pet’s comfort and quality of life. With an accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment, your pet can enjoy many more happy years!
If you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s oral health, consult with your family veterinarian. If you pet requires advanced dentistry and oral surgery services, ask your family veterinarian about a referral to Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota’s Dentistry and Oral Surgery Service, led by two board-certified veterinary dentists, Dr. Brine and Dr. Vicari. We also offer an Oncology Service led by board-certified veterinary oncologist, Dr. Keller.