Oral Cancer in Dogs | Petlebi

Dog Health

Cancer is unfortunately among the diseases that can be seen in our pawed friends. Oral cancer, which is common in dogs, is a disease that can be treated if detected early, but brings sad and undesirable consequences if it is delayed. In this article, you can find answers to frequently asked questions about oral cancer in dogs.

What Is Oral Cancer in Dogs?

6% of cancer cases in dogs are oral cancer. Oral tumors are more common especially among male dogs. Oral tumors can be expressed as abnormal growth and irregular replication of cells in the mouth. Some of these tumors grow slowly and do not spread; some are malignant and show both growth and spread. Oral tumors are the most common cause of oral cancer in dogs. Although oral cancer in dogs is commonly found on the roof of the mouth and around the gums, it should be kept in mind that they can be found in any part of the mouth.

Oral tumors are more common in some breeds of dogs. Cocker Spaniel, German Shepherd, German Shorthaired Pointer, Weimaraner, Golden Retiever, Gordon Setter, Toy Poodle, Chow Chow and Boxer are some of these breeds. The most common type of oral cancer in dogs is melanoma. The average age of oral cancer in dogs is 11 years old. Oral melanoma has a locally infiltrative feature and can progress deep into the bone. It also causes metastasis in 80% of dogs.

dog checked for mouth

Types of Oral Tumors in Dogs

Tumors are abnormal growths or swellings. Multiple types of tumors can occur from the mouth of dogs. In some cases, swelling and redness of the oral tissues may occur due to infection. These swellings can easily be mistaken for tumors. Periodontal disorders can cause swelling in the gums. However, these swellings are seen in the gingiva around one or more teeth and do not become cancerous. However, some bumps become cancerous, and there are different types of bumps that become cancerous.

Oral Malignant Melanoma

This type of cancer occurs in the pigmented cells of the tongue, cheeks, chin and oral cavity and is among the most common types. Oral malignant melanoma is more common in Golden Retriever, Dachsund, Scottish Rerrier and Poodle breeds. The resulting tumors are usually black or dark brown in color and only a small portion of them is white or pink. It is a highly invasive type of cancer and usually spreads to the lymph nodes or lungs. Chest X-ray or lymph node biopsy is recommended in dogs with oral malignant melanoma. Usually, this tumor is removed by surgical operation. Alternatively, radiation or chemotherapy options are available. The chances of cure in oral malignant melanoma vary depending on the size of the tumor and when it was detected.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of cancer that can be seen in dogs, cats and humans. It is commonly seen in the lips and throat area. These tumors are usually red in color and burst, causing pain in the mouth area. Squamous cell carcinoma, which is one of the invasive intraoral tumors in dogs, usually spreads to the underlying soft tissue or jawbone. Squamous cell carcinoma can be treated easily if it does not spread to other tissues. However, if it occurs in the tonsils, the treatment is more difficult. Because this type of cancer aggressively spreads from the tonsils to other parts of the body. The primary treatment method for squamous cell carcinoma is surgical removal of the main tumor. In addition, the bone tissue in the lower part is taken along with the cancerous cell. Treatment can be successful if the tumor is completely removed. However, when the tumor is very large or spreads to other areas, radiation or chemotherapy applications may be required.


Fibrosarcoma is a type of cancer caused by tumors that occur in the soft tissue in the lower part of the mouth. This type of cancer multiplies by throwing ivy-like branches into the surrounding tissue. For this reason, for the treatment of fibrosarcoma, some of the healthy-looking tissue around the tumor is also removed. These tumors rarely spread. They usually have a smooth and tight structure. Since fibrosarcoma tumors spread very slowly, the treatment and recovery process is generally positive. The chance of recovery is almost 100% when the tumor itself and the branches it has thrown around to spread are removed successfully. There is also a subtype of tumor called low-grade fibrosarcoma, biologically low-grade, also known as low-high fibrosarcoma. Although this tumor appears to be benign when biopsy is performed, it has a rather aggressive nature. In some cases, it spreads so quickly that it invades the surrounding healthy tissue, making it impossible to even operate. Low-high fibrosarcoma can be treated with surgery when diagnosed early. However, radiation therapy or chemotherapy is not possible for this tumor.


Osteosarcoma is a type of cancer that occurs in the bones. This cancer can occur in any bone, including the skull, foot, and vertebrae. When osteosarcoma occurs in the mouth, it is easier to treat than other parts of the body. Osteosarcoma is also among the cancer types that spreads rapidly and can spread from the mouth to the lungs or other bones. Dogs with osteosarcoma have a chest x-ray and a lymph biopsy because it is too invasive. Surgical intervention is required for treatment, and usually the bone from which the tumor occurs must be completely removed. It has been observed that very rarely positive results can be obtained with radiation therapy. For this reason, treatment methods other than surgical intervention are generally not preferred.

Acanthomatous Ameloblastoma

Canine acanthomatous ameloblastoma is among the types of odontogenic tumors. In this respect, it is a type of tumor seen in the structures supporting the tooth. This particular type of tumor occurs in the epithelial cells that form the surface of the structure. Acanthomatous ameloblastoma is locally aggressive and may spread to the supporting bone tissue beneath the tooth. For treatment, the tumor and the underlying bone must be removed.

Peripheral Odontogenic Fibroma

Peripheral odontogenic fibroma, also known as ossifying fibroma epulis or fibroma epulis, are benign tumors. They occur in the structures that support the tooth. In dogs, epulis are very slow growing masses and do not usually spread to the underlying bone tissue, so they can be easily treated by surgical removal. However, peripheral odontogenic fibroma are known as recurrent tumors. When it recurs, it has a more aggressive structure and can grow very quickly.


Odontomas are tumors that occur in dental tissues and are benign. They are classified as either compound or complex in appearance. Odontoma is especially seen in young dogs who are not more than two years old. It mostly manifests itself as a slowly growing swelling in the upper or lower jaw. Since it does not spread to another tissue, it is successfully treated by surgical intervention.


Papilloma is a lump-like tumor that grows in the mouth of young dogs. It is caused by a virus, and as dogs age, they become resistant to this virus. They often go away on their own and do not need treatment. However, the lesions may spatter in the mouth, albeit rarely, preventing chewing and swallowing. In such cases, the lesions should be removed with laser or surgical methods.

sleeping dog with its head on its owner's hand

What Are the Symptoms of Cancer in Dogs?

Although there are many different types of oral cancer in dogs, the symptoms are often common. In dogs;

  • Halitosis,
  • difficulty in eating,
  • excessive salivation,
  • Numbness,
  • Chewing on one side of the mouth
  • bloody saliva
  • Weight loss is among the most common oral cancer symptoms. Some of these symptoms can easily be confused with other disorders. In addition, the majority of cancer types have a high chance of cure when diagnosed early. For this reason, it is necessary to visit the veterinarian without wasting time when signs of oral cancer are seen.

Oral Cancer Treatment in Dogs

There is no single treatment for oral cancer in dogs. As we mentioned above, the treatments of oral cancers due to different oral tumors differ. Planning is commonly done with one of the treatment methods such as surgical removal of the tumor, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or a combination of these methods.

longhaired black dog examined by veterinarian

Oral Cancer and Life expectancy

When it comes to cancer, life expectancy is considered first, and “how long does a dog live with oral cancer?” is one of the first questions asked. This varies according to the type and stage of cancer. With early diagnosis and successful treatment, dogs can live for more than 10 years after cancer. However, when it is noticed late or it spreads to other tissues in the body, this period is unfortunately shortened. Despite treatment in some types of cancer, a life expectancy of up to 6 months is mentioned. Therefore, early diagnosis is extremely important for successful treatment and a long life expectancy.

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