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Cancerous and Non-Cancerous Growths in a Cat's Mouth

Have You Noticed a Growth in Your Cat's Mouth Recently?

Notice a mass growing in their cat's mouth? Your first worry may be that it's cancer. But not all oral growths are cancerous. A cat can develop a growth in her mouth for a variety of reasons.

This guide will help you learn more about cancerous and non-cancerous growths that can develop your cat's mouth, how they are diagnosed, and how they're treated.

Where Do Oral Masses Usually Develop in Cats?

An oral mass is the term used to describe a growth in a cat's mouth, or on the surrounding surface of the head region. Most commonly, these growths are found on a cat's tongue, lips, gums, and in the lymph nodes around the mouth.

What Causes Oral Tumors in Cats?

Oral masses can form in any age or breed of cat, but older cats and male cats seem to be more prone to getting them. Since it is almost impossible to determine the exact cause for why a cat might develop a growth in her mouth, veterinarians will usually investigate the presence of certain risk factors in her health and environment.

Such factors can include pre-existing tooth and gum disease, exposure to secondhand smoke, and the use of flea collars.

Signs and Symptoms of Oral Growths in Cats

Whether an oral mass is cancerous or not, the signs and symptoms will be very similar. Both types of tumors cause these symptoms:

  • Sores in the mouth (bleeding or non-bleeding)
  • Loose or lost teeth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Reluctance to eat / loss of appetite
  • Bad breath
  • Lethargy

How Is a Cancerous Oral Tumor in a Cat Diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will need to perform a biopsy to determine whether or not an oral mass is cancerous. If the biopsy shows that the mass is malignant (cancerous), then a second biopsy of the surrounding lymph nodes also will be performed to find out if the cancer in your cat has metastasized (spread to distant tissue).

X-rays also may be needed to determine which, if any, other parts of the body might be affected.

Treatment Options for Cancerous and Non-Cancerous Growths in a Cat's Mouth

If the tumor is benign, then it can be surgically removed. If the tumor is malignant, then treatment will be determined by the stage of the cancer and whether or not it has spread to other parts of the body.

If the cancer is localized, it may be possible to have the mass surgically removed, but if it has spread, then the removal of the tumor will be combined with radiation and chemotherapy to help improve your cat's prognosis.

How to Prevent Oral Growths in Cats

While cancer can't be prevented, there are some things you can do to help reduce your cat's risk of developing a malignant oral tumor. These include not using a flea collar, not smoking around your pet, and taking her to your veterinarian as soon as you discover her mouth to be inflamed or developing a sore.

About the Author

Dr. Evan Ware

Dr. Evan Ware is a veterinary practitioner in Phoenix, Arizona. He received both his undergraduate degree in microbiology and his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from The Ohio State University.

Dr. Ware is currently the Medical Director of University Animal Hospital (VCA) and is also the owner of two other hospitals, including Laveen Veterinary Center and Phoenix Veterinary Center. His areas of expertise include orthopedic medicine and surgery, veterinary oncology and chemotherapy, and general and advanced soft-tissue surgery.