Feline Oral Cancer
Feline oral cancer is not as common as other types of cancer in cats, but it does occur. And when it does occur, it is almost always deadly. It is an extremely difficult to treat cancer. Early detection can help, but symptoms usually do not arise until cancer is already in an advanced stage.
Oral Cancer in Cats Symptoms
Symptoms of feline oral cancer include:
Dropping food out of the mouth while eating
Lack of appetite
Lack of grooming
Swelling of the mouth
Bleeding from the mouth
If your cat has difficulty eating, it could mean many things. Most of the time, it doesn't mean cancer. However, it always needs to be checked out by a vet because it could be serious and because your cat shouldn't’t go for long without food and water.
Feline Oral Cancer Diagnosis
When you take your cat to the vet, he or she will do a complete physical examination, which will include examining the inside of your cat’s mouth. The vet will also do some blood tests to evaluate your cat’s overall health.
If an oral tumor is discovered, a biopsy will be the next step. The biopsy is necessary to tell if the tumor is malignant (cancerous) or not. If it is malignant, a special test called a chemo assay can be done, which will test different chemotherapy drugs against cancer cells removed during the biopsy in order to determine which will be most effective for your cat.
Feline Oral Cancer Treatment
Cat oral cancer is usually treated with chemotherapy or radiation followed by surgery. Surgery provides the best attempt at a cure assuming the cancerous tumor is diagnosed early. A chemo assay which tests different chemo agents on the cancer can be done to determine the best drugs to use for your cat. Chemotherapy involves multiple treatments, usually spread over a period of several weeks. Cats usually tolerate chemo fairly well, although they may have some side effects such as loss of appetite, vomiting, and hair loss.
Surgery is an option, depending on the location and extent of the tumor. In about 5% of all cases, the tumor can be completely removed by surgery. In other cases, surgery may be done to remove part of the tumor, and the remaining cancer may be treated with chemotherapy.
Be sure to keep your cat well nourished if she is suffering from this condition. If your cat will not eat consider foods with a sharper smell since cats will not eat what they cannot smell. You can use a syringe for feeding if necessary.
Feline Dental Pathology and Care
Jan Bellows, DVM
Cancer in Cats
Arnold Plotnick, DVM
Carolyn J. Henry, DVM, MS, DACVIM (Oncology)
University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO