The location of oral and pharyngeal cancer presents an immediate danger to the life of the dog. The growth causes an obstruction in the oral passage that is difficult to operate and excise.
Benign oral cancer in dogs presents a good prognosis as it does not spread to and invade the bones or other tissues like malignant tumors. Benign tumors are well defined and limited to a specific area while malignant tumors metastasize to nearby as well as distant organs of the body. Treating malignant oral cancers often poses a challenge to surgeons as they are difficult to access. There is also an accompanied risk of disfiguration as well.
Early detection is elemental to the success of treatment. Oral cancer normally appears in the mouth with the following symptoms:
- Abnormal lumps
- Overgrowth of gums
- Lesions and sores
- Difficulty in chewing and swallowing
But these symptoms do not surface in early stages and often appear after it is already too late.
Three types of oral cancer are known to develop in dogs and cats. Unfortunately, oral feline cancer is rarely benign.
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Malignant melanoma
Treatment mostly involves the following therapies:
- Surgical excision
Malignant oral cancer often spreads to the jaw bones leading to osteosarcoma, and surgery means a partial removal of the lower or upper jaw. An expert surgeon may ensure that some cosmetic procedures are performed along with the removal of the tumor. Oral cancer of soft tissue (fibrosarcoma) requires radical surgery if an attempt is made to remove the tumor. Often residual cancerous cells are left after the surgery, and radiation and chemotherapy are required to eliminate the roots of the tumor. Squamous cell tumors have a good prognosis if they are located in the front but tumors in the back of the mouth present a high risk of metastasis, and therefore have a poor prognosis.
Small tumors of the mouth may also be treated by cryosurgery, a procedure of application of extremely cold liquid nitrogen to small and accessible tumors. It is also used for treating residues left behind after surgery.
The story does not end after surgery as aftercare requires equally strict procedures to allow for maximum benefits of the treatment.
- The dog should be fed only soft food until the incisions have healed.
- After feeding, you need to flush the mouth with water or with an antiseptic solution.
- Chew toys and raw hides have to be avoided for at least three weeks.
- Care has to be taken to restrict activity until the veterinarian advises resumption of normal activity.
- Hot packs should be applied three times a day for 10 minutes for as long as swelling is observed.
- Follow up with regular chest X-rays if a metastasized tumor has been removed.
Pet cancer of any type is a traumatic experience for pet owners. Survival, in cases of malignant tumors, is limited to a couple of years even after surgery. Try your best to locate any signs of abnormal growth in the mouth of your dog. Your keen observation may result in improving the chances of survival of your pet dog.