Oral Masses FAQ

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Squamous cell carcinoma in a 10-year old cat

What are oral masses?
Some dogs and cats develop oral growths. Similar to humans these growths may be benign or malignant. Once a mass is noticed analysis must be made to determine the cause of the growth.

What causes oral mases?
Some masses are due to infections in the gums, or of the tooth itself. Many are due to tumors. Some breeds are predisposed to certain oral tumors (example: black cocker spaniels are prone to oral melanomas).

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Tumor invading hard palate in a cat

What are the signs?
Most pets will not show signs of oral masses until the mass has grown to inhibit chewing or swallowing. In some cases there will be bad breath, excessive drooling and/or a bloody oral discharge.

How are oral masses diagnosed?
The entire patient must be evaluated for tumor spread prior to surgery. Usually examination of regional lymph nodes as well as chest x-rays are taken. The veterinarian may take a sample of cells from the mass and examine them under the microscope to give an indication of whether the cause is due to infection or tumor. In most cases the mass will be removed and sent to the laboratory for analysis.

How are oral masses treated?
Pets that have non-malignant tumors can usually be cured by surgical removal or radiation therapy. Malignant tumors usually need more aggressive surgery and/or radiation and chemotherapy to decrease tumor spread.

What is the prognosis for oral masses?
The prognosis is directly related to the type of mass present. With treatment, benign tumors usually result in a normal life span. Those animals affected with aggressive malignant tumors may live only weeks to months after diagnosis with or without treatment.


This page last updated on October 31, 2000
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Jan Bellows, DVM
All Pets Dental Clinic
17100 Royal Palm Blvd.
Weston, FL 33326
(954) 349-5800