Oral tumours in cats

Julia Dicconson
Content Manager
September 26, 2021

If your cat has been diagnosed with an oral tumour, knowing more about the disease can help you provide them with a better quality of life. Oral tumours represent 15- 20% of feline cancers.

What is an oral tumour?

An oral tumour is an abnormal growth of cells in the mouth. Three-fourths of oral tumours in cats are squamous cell carcinoma, with fibrosarcoma the second most common. These tumours can be highly invasive, but slow to spread to other organs. 

Risk factors for squamous cell carcinoma in cats may include cigarette smoke, flea collars, and canned food. Oral tumour signs mimic severe dental disease or a tooth root abscess. 

What are common signs of oral tumours in cats?

Early signs include:

  • Unkempt haircoat
  • Reclusive behaviour
  • Bad breath
  • Drooling

Intermediate or advanced signs include:

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

Oral tumours represent 15-20% of feline cancers.

How are oral tumours managed in cats? 

Oral tumours in cats can be difficult to manage. The first step is addressing pain and underlying infection. The preferred squamous cell carcinoma treatment is surgery, depending on the tumour size and location.

Radiation therapy can be effective, and anti-inflammatory medications have been shown to inhibit tumour growth. Appetite stimulants or a feeding tube may be required to provide nutrition and medications. 

Cats with an oral tumour need regular vet visits to monitor their status and prognosis. Discussing a personalised management plan with your vet and a veterinary oncologist is important for the best outcome for your cat.

What is the prognosis for cats?

With complete tumour removal, median survival times for cats can be five to seven months. The combination of surgery and radiation may extend survival to 14 months. 

There is an almost 40% recurrence rate and the prognosis is poor if the cancer has spread to regional lymph nodes. Unfortunately, fewer than 10% of cats with an oral tumour survive for one year. 

Management tips for a cat with an oral tumour

At-home needs include:

  • Easy access to food, water, and litter box, 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 cat 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 cat’s condition becomes unmanageable, or they begin losing their quality of life. 

Don’t wait until the very end. It’s important to consider your pet’s end-of-life journey early, so that you, your family and your pet are all supported through the process.

When the time comes, we’re here for you. Goodbye Good Boy provides a range of end-of-life services to make the difficult process of saying goodbye a little easier. 

We offer quality of life assessments from qualified vets, specialist grief counselling, at home euthanasia from dedicated end of life veterinarians, as well as cremation services and memorial options to help remember your pet for their unique character.

We are with you at every step of the journey.

To find out more, you can call our team of passionate pet lovers on 1800 953 619.

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