Oral tumour in dogs

An oral tumor is an abnormal growth of cells in the mouth. Melanomas (melanosarcoma) are the most common oral tumor, followed by squamous cell carcinoma, fibrosarcoma, and osteosarcoma

These tumours can be highly invasive and melanomas are especially prone to spread to other organs. Oral tumor signs mimic severe dental disease and tooth abscesses.

What are common oral tumour signs in dogs?

Early signs include:

  • Bad breath
  • Drooling

Intermediate to advanced signs include: 

  • Difficulty eating
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Facial swelling

Drooling is a sign of oral tumour in dogs

How are oral tumours managed in dogs?  

Oral tumors in dogs can be difficult to manage. The first step is addressing pain and underlying infection. The preferred treatment may include a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. If surgery is not an option, radiation and/or chemotherapy is recommended.  With complete melanoma excision, immunotherapy may be helpful. 

Appetite stimulants or a feeding tube may be required to provide nutrition and medications. Dogs with an oral tumor need regular veterinary visits to monitor their status and prognosis. 

Discussing a personalised management plan with your veterinarian and a veterinary oncologist is important for the best outcome for your dog.

What is the prognosis for dogs with oral tumours?

The prognosis for dogs with an oral tumor depends on the tumor size and type, and complete surgical excision. 

The average survival time for melanoma surgery alone is less than six months, but when combined with radiation and chemotherapy, it can be up to one year. Studies indicate that melanoma immunotherapy increases survival time to 20 months or longer. 

The survival time for a dog with a squamous cell carcinoma after complete surgical excision and radiation therapy is between 10 to 40 months. Tonsillar squamous cell carcinoma has a much poorer prognosis.

Management tips for dogs with oral tumours

At-home needs include:

  • Easy access to food and water, and a comfortable location
  • Consistency with prescribed medications 
  • Feeding a palatable prescription diet 
  • Keeping a feeding tube clean, if needed 
  • Monitoring appetite, weight, drinking, urination and energy level

For end-of-life care:

In a crisis:

Immediately contact your vet if your dog stops eating; has difficulty breathing; or is vomiting, bleeding from the mouth, or vocalises in pain.

It is vital to begin end-of-life care discussions before your dog‘s condition becomes unmanageable or they begin losing their quality of life. 

The team at Goodbye Good Boy offers individualised support to help you and your family navigate this progressive disease by providing quality-of-life checks, in-home euthanasia, cremation and aftercare services and personalised memorialisation options. Our services can even be pre-paid to help ease the financial burden at the time of your pet’s passing. 

To learn more about our pet end-of-life services, give us a call on 1800 953 619 or visit our website goodbyegoodboy.com.au.


This article was reproduced with permission from Goodbye Good Boy advisor Dr Dani McVety, of Lap Of Love.