Mouth Cancer in Cats

Cat yawning in house.
Cat yawning in house. (Image: puregreentea/iStock/Getty Images)

If you notice any unusual bumps or cuts on your cat's mouth, it's time for a visit to your veterinarian. Only she can determine if the bumps or cuts are cancerous, and the sooner she does, the better. Early diagnosis is vital to your cat's survival.

Types of Cancer

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, the most common mouth cancers in cats are squamous cell carcinomas and fibrosarcomas. A squamous cell carcinoma is a type of tumor that forms on the cells of the gums tongue, lips or tonsils. Fibrosarcomas are tumors that spread slowly, though they can invade surrounding tissues and bones, according to PetMD. These affect the connective tissues of the mouth, particularly the gums.

Signs of Cancer

Check your cat for abnormal swelling around his lips and mouth. Ulcerations on the lips, tongue or roof of mouth could be a sign of trouble, particularly if they bleed. Mouth cancer also causes smelly breath, drooling and problems swallowing. Refusing to eat is also an indication that something is wrong.

Causes of Cancer

Unfortunately, there's no easy answer as to what causes cancer in cats. Your cat's genetic makeup and age could be the culprits, or it could be environmental factors, such as exposure to cigarette smoke. Older cats develop cancer more frequently than younger cats, according to the Merck Manual's Pet Health Edition, as do cats with white marks on their faces. In some cases, chronic viral infections are linked to cancer development.

Treatment for Cancer

If your cat has cancer, his treatment depends on the type and on which parts of his mouth are affected. If possible, the veterinarian will remove the cancerous tumor. The diagnosis needs to occur early and the whole tumor needs to be removed to give your cat his best chance at survival, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual. A veterinarian also might recommend chemotherapy or immunotherapy.

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