When you bring your pet to Morinville Vet Clinic for a dental checkup, we are not just checking the mouth for dental problems. The vets and technicians are also checking the mouth for any growths that have developed. Unless you are in the habit of brushing your pets’ teeth, you may not notice a lump growing in the mouth until it has become a problem. According to Dr. High, there are two types of problems. The problem that might be noticed first is functional. If a lump is large, or in an awkward spot, it makes it difficult to eat. It could hang in the way of the teeth and get bitten. It could trap material at the back of the mouth and cause a rotten smell. the other type of problem is medical. Many of the lumps that develop in the mouth are progressive forms of cancer. They eat into the tissues around them and spread through the body to other areas.
Not every lump in the mouth is dangerous. The vast majority of lumps on the gums of dogs are a very innocent type of lump called an epulis. These lumps of fibrous tissue develop right where the gum meets the tooth. they seem to be triggered by the irritation of tartar forming on the teeth. For most dogs with an epulis (or a bunch of epuli) the only problem is the annoyance of something rubbing on their mouth. Epuli are very tightly anchored to the bone underneath them, so they can only be removed by cutting them off under anesthetic. This would usually be done when the dog is already having an anesthetic for dentistry.
For dogs, there are several types of lumps in the mouth that are serious. Dr.High has seen about an equal proportion of three main types. There are carcinomas, usually on the lower jaw, melanomas, often on the inside of the cheeks, and fibrosarcomas that develop on the roof of the mouth. All three are very destructive in the area they grow, but only melanomas tend to spread around the body. Another trend that Dr High would discuss with owners of dogs that have oral carcinomas is that, the farther back the growth is in the mouth, the lower the success of treatment.
Cats have a different pattern for oral masses. Dr.High rarely sees an epulis in a cat. If there is a growth in the mouth, it is usually a bad sign. The vast majority are carcinomas of either the tongue or the bones of the mouth. These may not be easily seen, but they are extremely destructive due to deep invasion of the bone. The other type of oral tumour that cats get is fibrosarcoma of the gums. These are easier to spot and easier to treat.
The staff at Morinville Vet Clinic recommend that older pets have a dental exam every year. This is not just to ensure the teeth are healthy, but also to try to find oral masses before they become dangerous.
Written by Morinville Veterinary Clinic