How often do you look inside your pets’ mouth?

The answer is usually not often enough. The thing is there are many diseases that we may not notice unless we look, and some should be treated early than late, and oral tumour is one of them.

Oral tumours, like other places in the body, are divided into benign and malignant, and even sometimes they are not tumours, but swelling or overgrow due to periodontal disease. But unlike other places in the body, most oral tumours are malignant and may grow very quickly.

Since the lesions are inside the mouth, vets usually have difficulty in retrieving any cytology or biopsy without general anaesthetic. Most patients will need a biopsy to determine the nature of the tumour before further action. And if the report confirms the tumour as a malignant tumour, then surgery is usually needed when possible. The most common oral tumour in dogs and cats are melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma respectively and most malignant oral tumours involve the bone, therefore, majority of these cases may need a variation of mandibulectomy or maxillectomy.

Very often in my practice, the most difficult, also the most important, conversation and discussion with the owner is about the surgical part of oncology. Most owners resent on making a decision to a major surgery such as maxillectomy. However, these animals usually respond well to surgery and recovery is quick and without complications. Some owners will have concern about cosmetic and how they eat after surgery, and to be honest, there will be some alternation of their appearance especially in mandibulectomy – the tongue may fall out, some drooling may occur initially after surgery, food might fall out, sometimes they also require nutritional support during the first couple of days after surgery, but most animals do well.

Like other tumours, after surgery, most patients would still need to undergo chemotherapy. Prognosis is good if found early and treat appropriately.

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