What is Mouth Cancer (Ameloblastoma)?
Malignant canine ameloblastoma is a tumor that is from the bones used in supporting your dog’s teeth, and this type of tumor comes from the epithelial cells of your dog’s jaw. There are many kinds of cancers in dogs and several types of oral cancers, but malignant oral ameloblastoma is not common. The majority of oral ameloblastoma are not cancerous (malignant), so it may be tempting to ignore the growth in your dog’s mouth until it gets big enough to cause problems. However, it is important to your dog’s health that you never wait when it comes to any kind of growth or mass anywhere on the body.
Ameloblastoma masses are usually benign, but in a few cases, these tumors turn out to be malignant. A malignant oral ameloblastoma (mouth cancer), or canine acanthomatous ameloblastoma, is a fast growing cancer and spreads to the bone and teeth, but it does not usually spread to other parts of the body. While the average age of dogs who get this disease are over eight years old, these tumors have been found in dogs from age three to 19. This type of cancer is rare, but seems to be increasing rapidly, and experts believe it is because of the longevity of dogs with the advancements made in veterinary medicine.
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Symptoms of Mouth Cancer (Ameloblastoma) in Dogs
The main symptom of malignant oral ameloblastoma is a lump or mass in the mouth which does not usually cause pain. However, the size of the mass can displace the teeth, which will cause pain and inability to use the mouth as usual. These tumors have been reported to reach up to 20 cm and can get even larger than that. It is also common to see a multitude of tumors in the mouth. Some other common signs are:
- Bloody saliva or blood from the nose
- Excessive drooling
- Tooth pain
- Difficulty eating and drinking
- Refusing food
- Pawing at the mouth or face
- Chewing on one side of the mouth
- Loose teeth
- Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck
Causes of Mouth Cancer (Ameloblastoma) in Dogs
The cause of malignant oral ameloblastoma is still not known, although it is thought to be seen more in male large breed dogs (like German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers) and dogs that are of middle to old age (over five years old).
Diagnosis of Mouth Cancer (Ameloblastoma) in Dogs
The veterinarian will do a comprehensive physical exam, which includes your dog’s vital statistics (weight, blood pressure, pulse, body temperature, blood oxygen level), and a detailed visual examination of the ears, eyes, and nose. The veterinarian will also do an extensive oral exam including the size of the tumor and lymph nodes in the area as well as swabs from the tumor and throat for laboratory analysis. The exam will also depend on you describing the symptoms you have noticed and when they began. You should also be prepared to provide your dog’s medical background, any illness or trauma, shot records, and any recent changes in behavior or appetite.
Some tests your veterinarian may order will be blood work (complete blood count, blood gases, blood chemistry panel, and glucose test), radiographs (x-rays) of the chest and skull, fine needle biopsy of lymph nodes or tumor for laboratory analysis, and an endoscopy for a better look at the inside of your dog’s mouth and throat to be sure the cancer has not spread. The veterinarian will possibly need to get a CT scan, MRI, and ultrasound of the skull for a more detailed look at the tumor. The veterinarian will probably refer you to a veterinary oncologist for treatment.
Treatment of Mouth Cancer (Ameloblastoma) in Dogs
The best way to completely get rid of a malignant oral ameloblastoma is to surgically remove it, which usually includes removal of a portion of the jaw as well. The oncologist will admit your dog to the animal hospital, and your dog will probably stay overnight after the surgery for observation. The surgery is relatively safe, with a few complications that can be expected with any surgery, such as anesthesia reaction or infection. In some cases, it may also be necessary for your dog to have chemotherapy or radiation therapy to be sure the cancer is gone.
Recovery of Mouth Cancer (Ameloblastoma) in Dogs
While these types of tumors are not normally invasive to the rest of the body, if the cancer is not treated early enough, it can and will spread to the lymph nodes as well as vital organs. If your dog’s malignant oral ameloblastoma is treated before it spreads, the chances of recovery are good. Once the tumor is removed, and the doctor and oncologist both verify that your dog is cancer-free, your dog’s life expectancy will not be adversely affected at all. After your dog comes home, you will need to provide a safe and quiet place for your dog to sleep away from the rest of the family and pets. A follow-up visit will be necessary after about one month and another in six months just to be certain that the cancer has not returned.
Mouth Cancer (Ameloblastoma) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
In October 2018 we adopted Duke (12 year old pitbull), on our first physical at the vet we spotted a tumor on his right lower jaw. After a minor surgery in early Jan 2019 and x-ray a sample was sent for biopsy. The biopsy and x-ray result pointed to CAA. CAA is known to grow rapidly and severely affect the bone. We consulted a dental surgeon to discuss our options. We were given 3 options. 1. Dorsal rim excision with preservation of the ventral cortex 2. Segmental mandibulectomy and 3. Radiation therapy (at least 16 sessions)
Option 1 had a high risk of incomplete treatment since x-rays showed that the CAA had reached his jaw bone, and there was a very good chance that it had already reached the ventral cortex, so a complete removal of the CAA may not be possible in this option.
Option 2 would mean a complete removal of a portion of his lower jaw. This would need additional management of mandibular drift, crown reduction and vital pulp therapy of the lower left fang so that it does not traumatize the palate.
Option 3 would be very difficult on Duke. The first time we had him under anesthesia for his surgery he was miserable. He cried for 24 hours non-stop after waking up. We could not put him through that again especially when there was also high risk of fracture and and lesions.
After a *lot* of consideration and even more tears, we decided to wait, work on pain management and see how things go. Duke's favorite thing in the whole world is chewing on his toys, and we didn't want to take the thing that makes him the happiest away from him. His quality of life and happiness was our first priority, not matter how much we wanted to have him with us forever.
Now, it's been four months since we first noticed his tumor and he does not seem to be in pain because he aggressively chews on his Kong (even on the side of his CAA), and doesn't react if I press on the outside of his jaw. He's a happy dog and is showered with all the love and toys.
We had started to give him CBD oil/tablets for pain management and his arthritis. After a month of taking CBD, we noticed that the size of the tumor hasn't changed and even seems to be getting smaller. But we know that sometimes we can see things we desperately want to. We'll see what the doctor says when she takes a look at it in his next appointment.
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We have a 10 year Shih-poo (Shitz Tzu poodle mix) named Maddie. The vet extracted her tooth and noticed pus, blood and pieces of bone when extracting. Sent a sample off to to the U of I veterinary school and a week later we get the results. We were just told that she has Ameloblastoma. It is right below her left eye. We have an appt with an oncologist next week. Praying they can help her.
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My dog had a mass that was attempted to be removed many years ago and it was benign, but over the years it changed. In 2015 during a dental procedure removal was attempted but at the reg. vet could not be completed due to it growing into bone. This time it was malignant and came back as acanthomatous ameloblastoma. It was not explained at that time that it starts in the bone and I opted to not have surgery due to having to remove part of her upper jaw bone. I do wish it had been explained to me better at that time and what really should have been done. They only gave her 2 to 3 months if we did nothing but 2+ years with radiation. We did 3 weeks of radiation and it shrunk, but not as much as hoped. We have monitored every 6 months and every year since that time, most recent was CT Scan, pictures and some teeth pulled in March of 2017. Well, about March of this year it became active again, no idea why, and I thought it was simply her needing another dental knowing that the radiation had caused some ongoing gum problems. I got her to the UT vet the end of April and discovered it has eaten a hole between her mouth and nasal cavity and the only option now would be Chemo to slow it down. Problem is, this happening is so rare and most places don't do Bleomyicin. Going to a teaching hospital may be good if there are no other options, but I would not recommend something this serious in the hands of inexperienced interns and students. Thankfully her radiation was done at a private practice 5 hours away, but they don't do Bleomyicin so I am now looking for one to do her chemo. Are there other treatments or recommendations you may have?
Hi Sophie my 12 year collie x has just been diagnosed with this. The lump was removed from her gum but histology shows it’s an ameloblastoma. Vet talking about CT scans and further surgery. We really don’t know what to do. He also mentioned conservative treatment of pain relief rather than a big op. Thinking of you. I’m in bits over my girl x
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My dog , 8 yrs old Labrador was diagnosed with epulis in January 2018 and was electro cauterized on mar 10th 2018. Somehow they didnt send the sample for histopathology. On 29th April the vet again extracted tissue and it was sent for biopsy. And the reports are saying Low grade malignant Ameloblastoma. Already my dogs mouth is getting disfigured. Seeking some advise from you please.
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