Mouth cancer in cats is an extremely serious condition, and if it not detected early, it is almost always fatal. It is estimated that about one third of all cats will die from some form of cancer, and watching for and understanding the early symptoms can make the difference between life and death for your cat.
Most forms of cancer strike middle aged and older cats, and mouth cancer is no expectation. There are several potential cancers that can affect your cats mouth, including fibro sarcoma, lymphoma, and malignant melanoma, but they are usually not the cause. In the vast majority of cases, the cause of mouth cancer in cats is from squamous cell carcinoma.
Mouth cancer in cats is no different than any of form of cancer, as it is a condition in which rapid cell division and tissue growth occurs. When this happens, it is at the expense of organ specific functions, which in this case, is your cats mouth and throat. The best way an owner can understand this process, is by an example. If the cancer from your cat is biopsied, in most every case the mass of tissues will bear only a very slight resemblance to the normal mouth tissues when examined under a microscope.
However, this mass does not perform any of the functions of the other mouth or throat tissues, and if it goes undetected and untreated, it will completely overpower the functioning tissues. Once this occurs, it does something even more sinister; it states the process of metastasizing to other parts of your cat body.
Cancer of any type is graded or staged according to the degree of malignancy that is occurring. Low grade cancers will continue to grow locally and can reach a large size over time. They will spread to distant organs once this occurs, usually late in the illness, and in this case, can easily spread to your cats internal organs. On the other hand, high grade cancers spread very early and quite rapidly, even though the primary tumor is still quite small and hardly detectable.
In the case of mouth cancer in cats, if it is the result of squamous cell carcinoma, it is almost always malignant and high grade. This is the major reason it is so very dangerous.
Squamous cell carcinoma is most often associated with skin cancer, and for this reason, it is also associated with over exposure to the sun. However, in mouth cancer in cats, it has another very sinister trait; it is attracted to scars that may lie in your cats mouth or tongue.
Mouth cancer in cats, like any other form of cancer, has no real known cause. However, it is widely held in the medical community that this form of cancer is self induced. Cats by their nature are perhaps the most meticulous of all animals, and as a result they are constantly grooming themselves. When they groom, they use their mouth and tongue, and over time, this can cause scarring to occur.
Your cats environment is also full of carcinogens which fall on their hair coat daily from the air as well as anything they come into contact with. When you cat performs their meticulous grooming, a vast number of these carcinogens enter into your cats mouth as well as their tongue. These carcinogens can also cause the cells of the mouth or tongue to divide, and once they divide, they begin to reproduce. Once this overgrowth happens, it lays the ground work for tumors to develop which in turn, can become cancerous.
Mouth cancer in cats is very easy to spot if you know and understand the symptoms. It is extremely important with any type of illness in your cat to know the symptoms, but with mouth cancer, is can make the difference between life and death. It is also important for an owner to understand that even if you check your cats mouth and tongue daily, you may see absolutely no signs of a tumor. In fact, even the best trained veterinarian can easily miss them, unless the mass is actually growing and considered to be a low grade form and abrasions occur.
If it is the high grade form, it is almost impossible to identify without a biopsy. However, there are several other symptoms that you can watch for. The first sign of mouth cancer in cats is almost always excessive drooling. Any cat will droll slightly on occasion, but the key is slightly. Cats are not dogs and they do not drool excessively, and if you see any type of drooling that appears abnormal; immediately smell their breath. If their breath has a foul odor, you should run, not walk, to your veterinarian, as something is very wrong with your cat.
Another very serious sign to watch for is any type of bleeding that is coming from your cats mouth. Unless they have recently cut their mouth or tongue on something, bleeding is also a real warning sign. Weakness or sleeping more than usual is the next serious warning sign as well as any difficulty in eating. Understanding that this form of cancer is attracted to scares, and any type of scarring on your cats tongue may invite the mass growths, difficulty in eating quite often develops.
Mouth cancer in cats is extremely difficult to detect initially, unless you understand the symptoms. It can be almost impossible to see any type of lump or tumor in the early stages inside of their mouths. However, you can still look for any type of an irritation or any type of abnormal texture or abrasion. If you do see either of these, combined with the symptoms, you may have just identified it in the early stages.
At this point, your veterinarian can quickly perform a biopsy to determine if there is indeed any type of cancer present. This is a process where your veterinarian will take a small piece of tissue from you cats mouth and examine it under a microscope. It is done while your cat is under a general anesthesia, so it is not at all painful for your cat. If cancer is found, it is then subject to what is called a chemo assay, which will help to identify what stage it is in as well as potential treatments.
The treatment for mouth cancer in cats will all depend on the stage of the cancer. Chemotherapy treatments are very effective at slowing the progression, but it is not a cure for cancer. Cats also suffer from the same side effects as humans do with this form of treatment, and it includes vomiting and hair loss. Surgically removing the cancer gives your cat a much stronger chance of survival. However, this will also depend on the stage of the cancer. If it cannot be totally removed by surgery, it will in most every case come back.
Mouth cancer is extremely painful for your cat, making it almost impossible for them to take pills or even some liquids. There is a transdermal cream that your veterinarian can provide to ease the pain, but if they do have mouth cancer, you should also strongly consider switching your cat to a very soft form of food.
Mouth cancer in cats does not imply an immediate death sentence. However, if you do not see the symptoms early and seek immediate professional help, your cat has very little chance of surviving this sinister form of cancer. The most important thing any owner can do is to watch for these symptoms, especially as your cat ages.