Dog with Oral Tumor
Jake, our nine-year-old Labrador, has not been eating very well and has been slobbering. We looked inside his mouth and noticed a sore place behind the teeth on his upper jaw. The mass is about an inch in diameter and looks red and raw and bleeds constantly. Is this cancer? Can anything help Jake?
The mass you describe may be a tumor. I would have it examined immediately by your veterinarian who can run some tests to determine if it is a malignancy (cancer), benign tumor or just an infection. There are three types of malignant tumors of the mouth. They can grow very fast and go unnoticed until they become quite large. If the growth is malignant, you have several treatment options: surgery, cryotherapy, radiation or chemotherapy. I won't go into detail, but note that the cure rate is not very good for malignancies. If the tumor proves to be benign, Jake has a much better chance of being cured. Unlike a malignancy, a benign tumor does not spread to lymph nodes. If the tumor is an epulis (the most common benign type), it should be removed surgically as soon as possible since it could grow into the bone. If Jake is lucky, the growth you see is only an infection caused by some foreign body. A bone or stick, for example, may have cut into his gum and triggered a severe infection. It is easy to overlook a bone or stick in the gum because of the infection around it and because the irritated tissue may resemble a tumor. As you see, there are many possible conditions causing Jake's problem. None can be identified by outward appearances. The only way to make an accurate diagnosis is for your veterinarian to examine the mouth carefully, take radiographs if needed, and perform a fine needle aspiration. This latter procedure entails using a needle and syringe to pull cells from the mass, then examining them under a microscope for signs of bacteria, cancer cells or normal cells. I hope you have Jake checked soon and that the test results diagnose a problem that is easily treated.