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Dog Mouth Cancer: Symptoms, Treatment and Life Expectancy

Mouth cancer in dogs commonly targets older canines, although it can manifest in younger ones in rare instances. Oral tumors in dogs are predominantly situated on the roof of the mouth or along the gums, though they can emerge anywhere within the oral cavity. They exhibit rapid growth, frequently infiltrating the underlying bone, with certain types prone to metastasizing to other parts of the body. Below, explore the symptoms to watch for, treatment alternatives, and the typical lifespan of dogs affected by mouth cancer.

Symptoms and Types

Oral cancer in dogs encompasses the most prevalent types such as melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and fibrosarcoma. These varieties typically present similar symptoms, which commonly include a combination of the following:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Dysphagia (difficulty chewing or drinking)
  • Mouth bleeding
  • Oral discomfort
  • Weight loss
  • Loose teeth
  • Visible mouth mass
  • Occasionally, enlarged lymph nodes in the neck
  • Facial swelling or deformities


In the majority of instances, the cause of mouth cancer in dogs remains unidentified.


During a comprehensive physical examination, your veterinarian will inspect your dog’s mouth for tumors or anomalies, which may necessitate sedation. Bloodwork and urinalysis will offer insights into your dog’s overall health, crucial for devising suitable treatment strategies. Chest X-rays can reveal if mouth growths have spread to the chest, while a CT scan or MRI of the mouth can assess tumor invasiveness. A tissue biopsy is conducted to identify the type of cancer present. Sometimes, the entire visible mass is excised for identification, while in other cases, a small portion of the tumor is removed to plan future surgeries and treatments effectively. Lymph node samples may also be taken to assess for cancerous cells.


Surgery often serves as the primary treatment for dog mouth cancer, although it may not result in a complete cure due to potential spread to other body parts. Extensive removal of surrounding bone and tissue might be necessary to eradicate the majority of cancerous cells at the site. In some cases, partial removal of the jaw may be required, but most dogs recover well following such radical surgery. If surgery alone cannot completely remove the tumors, your veterinarian might suggest radiation therapy. While oral cancers in dogs typically do not respond favorably to chemotherapy, there exists a form of immunotherapy specifically for oral melanomas in dogs.

Living and Management

For dogs with oral tumors or those recovering from oral surgery or radiation therapy, soft foods, hand-feeding, or a feeding tube may become necessary. After the removal of part of the jaw, your dog may experience difficulties with eating and drinking until they adapt to the loss of teeth and bone. Your veterinarian will advise on pain relievers, antibiotics, or any other required treatments to ensure your dog’s quality of life is maintained for as long as possible.

Dog Mouth Cancer Life Expectancy

The life expectancy of dogs diagnosed with mouth cancer depends on several factors including the type of tumor, its stage at diagnosis, and the overall health of the dog. If detected early and completely removed, surgery may offer a chance of cure. Unfortunately, oral tumors in dogs are frequently diagnosed after metastasis has occurred. With proper treatment, many dogs survive for approximately 6-12 months post-diagnosis, after which euthanasia becomes the most compassionate option.

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