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What are Cancerous and Noncancerous Mouth Growths?

Cancerous tumors, along with other types of swelling of oral tissues in the mouth are a common occurrence in dogs. Oral growths in dogs, fortunately, have a high success rate of complete resolution if the growth is found early. Identification of the tumor is crucial. Benign lumps generally grow slowly and do not spread to other parts of the body. Malignant growths can spread quickly to lymph nodes and organs, thus proving the need for prompt removal upon diagnosis.

A growth in the mouth of your dog is defined as either malignant (cancerous) or benign (noncancerous). Diagnostic tests are the most accurate way to determine the origin of the growth, and to decide on the best plan of action. It is very important to bring your dog to the veterinarian for regular check-ups in order to assure quality and timely oral care.

Cancerous and Noncancerous Mouth Growths Average Cost

From 17 quotes ranging from $4,000 - $15,000

Average Cost

$10,000

Symptoms of Cancerous and Noncancerous Mouth Growths in Dogs

Not all dogs who have an oral mass will display obvious symptoms. You may discover it as you brush their teeth (this should be a part of your daily dog care routine). Your canine may show pronounced symptoms of a growth as follows:

  • Pawing or rubbing at their face (usually indicates pain)

  • Visible sores
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Tooth displacement
  • Chattering of teeth (can indicate pain)
  • Not wanting to chew (may mean pain)
  • Drooling
  • Redness in mouth
  • Swelling and ulceration in mouth
  • Halitosis (unpleasant odor in the mouth)

Types

There are many types of growths that can be found in the canine mouth.

Cancerous (Malignant)

A cancerous mass will often invade the underlying tissues of the mouth. The most common forms are:

  • Melanoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Fibrosarcoma
  • Acanthomatous ameloblastoma
Noncancerous (Benign)

A noncancerous lump can occur due to instances of infection in oral tissue and are often tooth associated. These growths can be seen as:

  • Osteomas
  • Odontomas
  • Fibromas
  • Granulomas
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Causes of Cancerous and Noncancerous Mouth Growths in Dogs

The growths found in a dog’s mouth may be identical in outward appearance. However, the severity of the harm they can do will depend on the type of tumor. Further investigation is paramount in order to assure a return to full health for your dog. Causes for a growth may be:

  • Older, male dogs are diagnosed with oral cancer more so than younger canines, or their female counterparts
  • Dogs with dark pigmented mucosa are more often diagnosed with cancerous growths
  • Periodontal disease can lead to a noncancerous lump
  • A damaged salivary gland may prompt the development of a growth
  • The most common noncancerous growth is a tumor of the periodontal ligament (called an epulid)
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Diagnosis of Cancerous and Noncancerous Mouth Growths in Dogs

The diagnosis of the growth will include the answer to a very important question. How far does the growth extend into the surrounding tissue? Dental radiographs of the mass will be done first. A biopsy taken from the growth will be necessary in order to get a microscopic view of the growth.

It should be noted that sometimes a growth can be removed at the time of biopsy (excisional biopsy). Although, in the majority of cases the veterinarian will resort to an incisional biopsy. An incisional biopsy will be performed to accurately determine the type of growth and the best avenue of treatment. The biopsy will be transferred to a pathologist for examination.

Depending on the initial diagnosis of the growth, further tests may be required such as chest x-ray, abdominal x-ray, and lymph node biopsy, particularly in the case of a cancerous growth. It is imperative to determine the extent that the cancer has spread.

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Treatment of Cancerous and Noncancerous Mouth Growths in Dogs

A growth in the mouth is abnormal, no matter what the cause. Fortunately, noncancerous growths have a good prognosis for complete eradication. This is because benign lumps do not invade bone or spread to other tissues and have well-defined borders. Removal is often a simple surgery. Note, these growths can return.

Cancerous growths are more complicated. Surgery will most often include a removal of some of the surrounding oral tissue along with the growth, in order to eliminate the mass in it’s entirety. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may follow the surgery.

For example:

  • Melanoma
    • This cancer appears in the soft tissue cells of the tongue, cheeks, and jaws. There is a high rate of metastasis (spread) to the lymph nodes and lungs. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are the usual courses of treatment.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma
    • This is a painful cancer that is found in mouth and throat tissues. Though the prognosis of recovery can be good, metastasis can be aggressive if not caught early. Due to the wide range of cancers and their unique characteristics, veterinarians must decide on a treatment course case by case. There are oral cancers that have a rare chance of spread, such as Fibrosarcoma. Others, like Osteosarcoma (originating in the bone) are extremely aggressive necessitating a longer, more invasive treatment.
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Recovery of Cancerous and Noncancerous Mouth Growths in Dogs

The length of recovery time for your dog will depend upon the surgery, as well as the need for follow-up radiation and chemotherapy.

A noncancerous growth can often be removed quite easily. It has been shown that canines recover fairly quickly from oral surgery and may be back to normal behavior within a day or two. Medication will be prescribed for pain if needed. A change in diet may be recommended until your dog’s mouth has completely healed from the surgery. Daily brushing of teeth and a weekly inspection of your pet’s mouth should be the norm, in order to check for a new or returning growth.

A canine cancer patient has a longer road of recovery ahead. Frequent visits to the clinic will be needed in order to assure that your dog is responding to the cancer treatments. As well, a dog who has had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor will have had in many cases, a large amount of tissue or bone that surrounded the growth, removed. This may mean a period of adjustment for your dog. It is known, however, that dogs often adjust to oral changes quickly without too much interruption to their eating habits.

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Cancerous and Noncancerous Mouth Growths Average Cost

From 17 quotes ranging from $4,000 - $15,000

Average Cost

$10,000

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Cancerous and Noncancerous Mouth Growths Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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German Shepard/ lab

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Five Months

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Growth On Mouth/Lip

My puppy recently went with me on a trip to visit my sister. While we were there she found a growth in her dogs mouth and they looked it up. I think they said it was a mouth tumor and said it was contagious. My dog now has these growths similar to the ones my sister’s dog had. I was wondering if there is a treatment for this or not. Also my other dog has started getting sores all over her body from licking herself and removing the hair in that area. She is up to date on flea treatment and vaccines, is there a way to stop her from licking herself raw?

Aug. 5, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello- Thank you for your question. That is most likely a viral papilloma which is contagious. It will resolve on its own without treatment over the next several weeks. It sounds like your other dog may have a skin infection. I would recommend scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian so they can assess the skin and provide antibiotics if needed. The most common underlying cause for skin infections and itchiness in dogs is allergies. There are many different options available for treatment that you can discuss with your veterinarian. Good luck!

Aug. 6, 2020

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English Bulldog

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Semi Hard Lump On Side Of Cheek

About 2 days ago, I noticed a semi hard lump on the side of my dogs cheek. It is about an inch big and not painful for her. We are getting it checked tomorrow, but what do you think it could be?

Aug. 3, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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Hello- Thank you for your question. There are many types of skin growths. More than half of them are benign but I’m glad you’re getting it checked out so your vet can assess whether it is a growth that needs to come off. It could also be a focal area of infection called an abscess which could be related to the teeth depending on the level of dental disease. Your vet will be able to take an aspirate of the swelling and look at it under the microscope to help identify what it is.Have a good day

Aug. 3, 2020

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Akita/bouvier

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12.5 Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Large Red Growth Behind Tooth

2 days ago I noticed a large bright red growth in my dogs mouth on his gums. He seemed normal. Today his gums are still red yet the bump is gone. He is panting quite a bit but otherwise seems ok. Any idea what this could be?

July 23, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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Hello- Thank you for your question. Honestly it is very hard to say what the oral growth was. It does not look like a typical papilloma and unfortunately most oral growths look very similar and need histopathology to definitively diagnose them. I would open up the inside of his mouth. If there is any evidence of the growth still there he needs to be taken to your veterinarian to be examined and they can make a treatment plan to biopsy the growth.

July 23, 2020

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Chihuahua

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Ten Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Green Plaque On Teeth, Red Lump Under Tongue Looks Fluid Filled

I (very) recently (during covid with no work) inherited a sweet little old girl when my Nana passed away. She was elderly. B's teeth are a mess, hard green plaque in the front. Doesn't stop her from eating, drinking, playing or cleaning the other dogs I have though and oddly she doesn't have had breath. Today I was playing with her and I noticed a pretty large lump under her tongue. It looks fluid filled, possibly blood filled. She sometimes is flicking her tongue in and out but that is her only other symptom. Other than perfectly normal Chihuahua. Wouldn't have known if she hadn't licked me. Help

July 20, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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Hello From what you are describing, your pup could have a cyst, abscess or a pocket of saliva under her tongue. I recommend that you take her to a veterinarian for an exam. They will be able to check the lump under her tongue to determine exactly what it is. Good luck.

July 20, 2020

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Husky Shepard mix

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Bump On Mouth

It goes away with medication but swells back up

July 14, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, without being able to see the lump, or know what medication makes it better, it is difficult to comment on what might be happening. If it is something that keeps coming back, it would be best to talk to your veterinarian and find out if this is something that just needs to be controlled and it may keep coming back, or if there is a different treatment that might make it resolve. I hope that all goes well for him.

July 14, 2020

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Honey

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corgi golden mix

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9 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Lump On Lip Near Canine Tooth

my 9-year old female corgi/golden retriever mix has a 5 mm pink lump on her black lower lip, on the outside, just behind where the canine sits. Hard to tell if it causes pain, since she normally doesn't like having her mouth touched, but she eats normally (canned food) and has normal energy (sleeping a lot with bursts of joyful energy). Have not been good about brushing her teeth, and I'm concerned that this is some plaque-induced injury. Only occurs on one side--other is normal. Plan to take her to the vet, but wondering what to expect. Afraid they will pull the tooth. Could be an infection...I was thinking topical antibiotics and warm compresses to start, along with daily toothbrushing. Is this reasonable? Is tooth removal the best choice in these situations? Does it depend on how bad the lump is?

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Pepper

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Yorkshire Terrier

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6 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Tumor

My Yorkie/chihuahua mix had a tumor removed from his mouth yesterday. They are sending it for a cancer test. He has dissolvable stitches. He is doing great and is freaking out because he can’t have his toys. They’re all soft stuff animals and basically just carries them around in his mouth. Do I really have to wait 2 weeks before he can have his toys?

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Missy

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Lhasa Apso x King Charles Cavalier

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16 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling
Bleeding
Mouth Lump
Cysts
Sleepiness
Mouth Tumor

Missy had a tooth pulled by a vet at about age 13 when she was with another dog owner. At that time a cyst grew out of the tooth extraction site (front jaw area) and due to the cost to rectify, the previous owner decided to leave it. Fast forward, we inherited her and the cyst has grown and a smaller cyst has popped up beside it. It looks like she has her tongue sticking out. Now the cysts are bleeding from time to time and there is swelling on one side of her nose. She does rub the area with her paw or on the carpet. She has gradually become less interested in playing with toys and chewing hard or semi-hard treats. We had a vet look at it and was told they’d have to do surgery and likely remove part of the jaw. She is in good shape otherwise. People think she’s much less her actual age. No heart murmur but starting to get cloudy eyes and has very selective hearing. She is sleeping ALOT. I noticed tonight that she is getting uncomfortable laying her head on either side. The blood is transferring to carpet, sheets and blankets. She also has sores on her body that itch and become infected. The cost of the surgery is in the thousands. I would do it but my husband does not want to spend the money on an old dog. My question is when do you know it is time to put her down? All she does is eat and sleep. I take her to the park to socialize her but I’ve noticed her energy is waning although her desire is there. Can the cysts just be aspirated?

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Rockie

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Boxer

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14 Years

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Serious severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Mouth Tumor

I have a 14yr old female boxer. She is in great health, especially for her age. She has had tumors and growths all over her most of her life. Several vets look at them and told me its a boxer thing. They have never bothered her. Last December she got a growth in her mouth and I figured it was like all her other ones, but when she ate it would bleed as though a major artery and stop just as quick. I took her to vet and he was able to remove it no issue and she was back to normal same day. About a month ago I noticed another one, and took her to the vet and this time he told me he would have to remove part of her jaw, or another option would be the radiation. His advice was probably not either as her quality of life at her age would most likely suffer and I agreed with him. I just want to make her comfortable and happy. I am heartbroken and really not sure what I should do for her. It has got to point that it is constantly bleeding to point she smells like blood all over. I am fine with cleaning up whatever i need to, but i dont want her to be in pain, and not sure how toxic blood in her mouth might be. I only feed her soft food now and make sure to be careful so nothing might cut it open. She is the only animal i have ever had and she has been with me 14 years. Other than this issue she is healthy and active. I just dont want my attachment and love to blind me into shellfish holding on too long and make her suffer. Am I making the wrong decision not having it and part of jaw removed? Or is there someway to help make it more comfortable for her? Or should I come to terms with having to let her go. Any and all advice would truly be appreciated as I am very lost emotions. Thank you.

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Lola

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Staffordshire Bull Terrier

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13 Years

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Serious severity

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Bleeding
Bad Breath

Lola has what is believed to be a malignant melanoma tumour at the back of her throat. It is proceeding to grow and has caused her teeth to be in bad condition. Her breath is very bad and some nights she does drool blood. She has lost wait around her face and head. I know this is the one question every owner struggles with but me and my family needs the advice, when is it time to put her to sleep. She still eats and enjoys her food although sometimes she does struggle to chew. She still enjoys her days out and rolls and plays in the garden. She loves interacting with anyone who will give her the attention. Shes been to the vets and they gave us antibiotics as she did get an infection, they said with her behaviour they was comfortable to give us the antibiotics and even keep her on them if it keeps the infection away. Her condition is worsening, we are all aware of that. and as much as she may be ready to be put to sleep physically now or very soon. she isnt ready mentally as her personality still shines. And we just dont know what to do or how to gage it. As of course she’s more than likely in pain, but with her behaviour being this way when is fair? They say to judge a dog by there way of life and she seems to still be enjoying herself and just when we ready ourselves and think its time she springs back.

Cancerous and Noncancerous Mouth Growths Average Cost

From 17 quotes ranging from $4,000 - $15,000

Average Cost

$10,000

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