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What is Partial Glossectomy?

Your dog's tongue is a unique structure with specialized tissue adapted to allow your dog to taste, manipulate food, and aid in vocalization. However, if trauma occurs to the tongue or disease such as lingual tumors occur, a portion of your dog's tongue may need to be surgically removed. Although lingual tumors are not common in dogs, when they do occur they are generally aggressive. The most common malignant tumor of the tongue is squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Removal of the tumor and surrounding lingual tissue is necessary to treat cancer and prevent spread. A partial glossectomy is the removal of any free (not directly anchored to the oral cavity) portion of the tongue. Subtotal and total glossectomy involve the removal of part or all of the tongue including lingual tissue attached with the genioglossus to the oral cavity. The goal of partial glossectomy is to remove sufficient lingual tissue to allow sufficient margins where neoplasia or damage has occurred, but leave as much tissue intact as possible. Partial glossectomy, if necessary in your dog, is performed under anesthesia by a qualified veterinary surgeon.

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Partial Glossectomy Procedure in Dogs

Your veterinarian will provide you with preoperative instructions which will include fasting your dog from food prior to surgery. Because surgery takes place in the oral cavity, it is likely that general anaesthetic will be performed by intravenous medication rather than by intubation through the oral cavity which would hamper the procedure. Partial glossectomy will be performed by excising a portion of the free (not anchored) of the tongue and associated damaged or diseased tissue. This will be done by making an incision anterior to the damaged tissue or tumor, between the tumor and the back of the mouth cavity. Incisions used may be longitudinal, cuneiform or transverse depending on the location of disease or damage. When a tumor is involved, tissue margins up to 2 cm caudal to the tumor will be removed if possible. A surgical marker will be used to mark the area to be excised. A clamp may be placed to help prevent bleeding. The lingual tissue is cut away starting at one side. Litigation is performed as the tissue is excised away and blood vessels are encountered; suturing is performed periodically to close the incision as tissue is removed. If the lingual artery is intercepted it will need to be resected and any major nerves encountered will be preserved as much as possible. If possible, reconstruction with skin flap repair may be conducted and, as much as possible, a normal tongue shape will be preserved. Your dog will be put into recovery post-surgery and monitored for recovery from anesthetic and hemorrhaging from the glossectomy site.

Efficacy of Partial Glossectomy in Dogs

If lingual tumors are present, there is a risk of recurrence in remaining lingual tissues from partial glossectomy. More aggressive glossectomy may be an option depending on malignancy of tumors. Sufficient margins must be removed along with lesions in order to adequately treat lingual tumors. Treatment with chemotherapy or radiation in conjunction with partial glossectomy will provide the optimum outcome where malignant tumors are present. 

Partial Glossectomy Recovery in Dogs

Post-surgery, your dog may need to be provided nutrition with a feeding tube or administered a liquid or soft food diet depending on the amount of lingual tissue removed. You will also have to ensure that no items are available for your dog to chew on post-surgery that would cause damage to the surgical site. A basket muzzle may be useful in preventing oral damage during recovery. Medication prescribed by your veterinarian should be administered as directed and may include pain medication and antibiotic. Most dogs recover well and adapt well with up to 60% removal of their tongue. Partial glossectomy usually involves less loss of tissue and your dog should not have trouble coping post-surgically.

Cost of Partial Glossectomy in Dogs

Partial glossectomy in your dog will cost between $200-$500 depending on the amount of intervention required and whether reconstructive procedures are performed. 

Dog Partial Glossectomy Considerations

Blood supplied from lingual artery and facial nerves connected to the tongue need to be considered during partial glossectomy. A surgical plan should be developed to determine what tissue needs to be removed and the location of major arteries and nerves before surgery.

A plan to address any interference of these vessels and nerves will reduce the likelihood of bleeding or nerve damage caused by excision of lingual tissue.

Partial Glossectomy Prevention in Dogs

Although prevention of lingual cancers is not well understood in dogs, removing hazardous objects that might damage your dog's oral cavity and tongue will help prevent surgical intervention being required on the tongue from trauma. Routine monitoring by your veterinarian to discover lingual neoplasia at an early stage will allow for less invasive partial glossectomy to be an option in treating lesions.

Partial Glossectomy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

My dog (9) has a lingual mass back of tongue. No spread to lymph nodes or lungs. It is very hard to make decision about surgery. Wonderful surgeon, but my head is aching with the thought of my sweet girl losing part of her tongue. What if we don't do it??
Biopsy showed aggressive squamous cells

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1828 Recommendations
I would recommend surgery on any oral mass where possible as further growth may impede eating and may be easily damaged by foreign objects (sticks etc…). I understand your concern about surgery, but with good perioperative care and appropriate risk management the surgery should go well; ultimately this is your decision, but I would go for it based on the information provided. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

My dog also just recently was diagnosed with melanoma on the base of her tongue that extends right up to the midline. I wish surgery was an option but going up or past midline will compromise the viability and blood supply to the tongue. I'm wondering about complete amputation of the tongue. There are some stories of dogs adjusting to this and eventually learning to eat and drink without a feeding tube. Just wondering if others have experienced this and how was adjustment and care of your dog after the amputation.

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