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Tongue Cancer (Squamous Cell Carcinoma) in Dogs

Lingual Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Dogs

Dogs can develop various tumors, including those affecting the oral cavity. Tongue squamous cell carcinomas typically manifest beneath the tongue, attaching to the mouth’s lower part. They may appear white and occasionally exhibit a cauliflower-like shape. This type of tumor proliferates rapidly and spreads to other body areas.

A squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) refers to a malignant tumor that aggressively infiltrates the scale-like cells of the epithelium, the tissue covering the body or lining its cavities. These scale-like cells are termed squamous. Carcinoma denotes an especially malignant and stubborn cancer type, often recurring after surgical removal and metastasizing to other organs and bodily locations.

Similar to many carcinoma cases, this condition commonly affects older dogs, typically those over seven years of age.


  • Excessive drooling
  • Presence of small white growth on the tongue
  • Loose teeth
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Difficulty chewing and eating (dysphagia)
  • Blood emanating from the mouth
  • Weight loss


The etiology of squamous cell carcinomas on the tongue remains unknown.


To diagnose squamous cell carcinomas on the tongue, you must furnish your veterinarian with a comprehensive medical history detailing the onset of symptoms. The veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination of your dog, considering the provided background information, current symptoms, and potential incidents that may have precipitated the condition, such as accidental ingestion of toxic substances leading to mouth sores or other oral injuries.

A detailed visual inspection of your dog’s mouth and tongue will be conducted, and a tissue sample will be collected from the tumor for laboratory analysis. This biopsy remains the definitive method for determining the tumor’s nature, whether malignant or benign. Additionally, X-ray images of your dog’s head and chest will be taken to assess whether the cancer has metastasized to the bones, lungs, or brain. Palpation of your dog’s lymph nodes will be performed to detect any swelling, indicating the body’s response to invasive disease. Lymph fluid samples will be analyzed for the presence of cancerous cells.

Standard diagnostic tests, including complete blood count and biochemistry profile, will also be conducted to ensure normal organ function in your dog.


Effective treatments for these tumors are limited due to their size or location, often making complete removal challenging without causing significant disability. However, in some cases where tumors are situated close to the front or on one side of the tongue, surgery may be an option. During surgery, part of the tongue, along with the tumor, will be excised. Depending on the tumor’s size and location, complete removal may not be feasible. In such instances, your veterinarian will discuss the potential effectiveness of chemotherapy or radiation therapy in halting or slowing tumor regrowth.

Dogs undergoing partial tongue removal typically recover well post-surgery but may experience difficulty eating during the recovery period. Your veterinarian will assist you in devising a suitable meal plan for your dog, typically consisting of soft or liquid foods. In some cases, a feeding tube may be necessary until your dog’s mouth heals adequately. These feeding tubes are usually inserted directly into the stomach. If this procedure is required, your veterinarian will provide guidance on proper tube placement techniques.

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will assist you in devising a meal schedule and recommending the most suitable foods for your dog during the recovery period. It’s crucial to adhere closely to your veterinarian’s instructions. If your dog underwent surgery to remove part of its tongue, it will likely require a feeding tube upon returning home. This tube must remain in place until your dog’s tongue and mouth have sufficiently healed from surgery. Following tube removal, your dog should continue with a diet consisting of easily digestible soft foods. You may find it beneficial to encourage your dog to eat from your hand, using small food portions, until it resumes normal eating habits.

Carcinomas commonly recur after surgery. While individual responses vary, most dogs tend to fare well for a few months following treatment or surgery before experiencing disease recurrence.

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