Benign And Malignant Oral Tumors In Dogs

There are two types of tumors that can be found in the mouth and upper throat Of Dogs. Benign tumors which are not cancerous, and malignant tumors which are cancerous.

Benign Tumors

Epulides are the most common type of benign oral tumors found in dogs. They are often seen in dogs over six but can be found in dogs of any age. Epulides are firm masses in the gum tissue and come from the ligament of the tooth. Epulides tend to occur singly but there may be multiple masses present in the mouth. They can become extensive. There are two general categories. Peripheral odontogenic fibromas can develop a hard, bone like tissue within the center of the mass. The second category is canine peripheral ameloblastoma. They are fast growing and can invade surrounding tissues such as bone. They are aggressive and should be treated surgically. Radiation treatment may be necessary if there are large tumor and can help to reduce disfigurement. The animal will need a biopsy before any surgery. The biopsy results will help the vet plan both the surgery and any other necessary treatment.

Gingival Fibroma

Gingival fibromas are benign growths near the gum line. They are generally not sensitive. They are tough and are the same color as the gum or a little paler. They can grow large enough to cover several tooth surfaces. They are more commonly found in brachycephalic breeds than in others. They are found more often in older dogs but there is not usually any sign of illness. It is possible for hair, debris and food particles to gather between the teeth and the growth which can cause bad breath. The growths can be surgically removed. The animal may need a daily oral rinse until the area has healed after surgery.

Viral Warts

Viral warts are caused by a virus and are noncancerous growths. They are most common in the mouth lining and corners of the lip. However, they have been seen on the roof and back of the mouth. They can be common in young dogs and can appear suddenly. They grow and spread quickly. The symptoms are often seen when the warts restrict the animal’s ability to chew, pick up food and swallow. If there is a large number of warts, it is possible that the animal may bite them when chewing. This causes bleeding and can cause infection. The wart may disappear without treatment within a few weeks. If treatment becomes necessary, the warts can be surgically removed by a veterinarian.


Papillomas are similar to warts in appearance but are slower growing. They are not usually found in groups and do not usually spread. They can be surgically removed.

Malignant Tumors

The most common types of malignant tumors in dogs are malignant melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and fibrosarcoma. The gums are most often affected. The symptoms can vary depending on the extent and location but refusal to eat, drooling and bad breath are common. If the tumors are on the back of the mouth and throat, then the animal may have difficulty swallowing. The tumors may also ulcerate and bleed. As the tumor grows and invades the surrounding tissue, the face may become swollen. Often, the lymph nodes near the tumor become visibly swollen before the tumor itself becomes noticeable. The vet will perform a tissue biopsy and evaluate the lymph nodes near the tumor site and lungs, if it is suspected that the tumor has spread. The treatment and prognosis depend on several factors. This includes the type of tumor and if the tumor has spread. Malignant melanomas are very invasive and spread quickly. The prognosis for this type of tumor is guarded to poor. The tumor can be surgically removed which can extend the life of the animal and may even cure the condition but it is common for the tumor to return. Squamous cell carcinomas which do not affect the tonsils do not spread quickly and prognosis can be good if treated with aggressive surgery, radiation treatment or a combination of the two. If the squamous cell carcinoma has affected the tonsils, then they spread quickly and the prognosis is poor. Fibrosarcomas can be treated with surgery but it is common for the tumors to return. The prognosis is guarded.

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