Tongue Cancer in Dogs

Tongue cancer in dogs is a rare type of mouth cancer. Malignant tumors (most often squamous cell carcinomas) may grow on the dog’s tongue. The cancer may manifest through excessive drooling and lack of appetite. Detected in the early stages, the tumor can be surgically removed; otherwise, the dog’s prognosis is poor and he may die within 2 to 6 months.

Causes of Tongue Cancer in Dogs

The causes of tongue cancer are not known. Some specialists will associate the occurrence of cancer with the dog’s diet, exposure to certain chemicals or trauma. Further research is necessary to establish the causes.

Symptoms of Tongue Cancer in Dogs

A dog with tongue cancer may display symptoms according to the stage of the cancer and the size of the tumor. During the first phases of the disease, the dog may not show any signs of cancer, but as the tumor grows you may notice a few symptoms such as:

  • Lack of appetite, as the dog has difficulties chewing and even swallowing
  • Red tongue, due to the increased blood flow to the tongue
  • Pain, signaled by pawing the mouth and face
  • Drooling, often with blood in the saliva
  • Bad breath
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • The dog may keep his mouth open at all times, typically when the tumor is very large
  • Difficulties breathing, if the tongue is swollen and the larynx, epiglottis and esophagus are also swollen

You may detect a growth on the dog’s tongue, but make sure you check even in hidden areas of the tongue. You can perform a weekly check of the dog’s mouth for oral cancer, as the early detection of a tumor can significantly increase the dog’s chances of survival.

Diagnosis for Tongue Cancer

A biopsy is required to determine if the tumor is cancerous. A set of blood tests may also be performed to establish the dog’s overall condition and the stage of the cancer. The vet will determine the type of cells that make up the tumor. Typically, the tongue tumors are squamous cell carcinomas, but there mat also be fibrosarcomas, melanomas or mast cell tumors. In some cases, the cancer may originate in a different location (like in the throat) and metastasize affecting the tongue as well.

Treatment Options for Dog Tongue Cancer

Ideally, the tumor should be detected as early as possible, so that a surgical excision can still be performed. If the tumor is successfully removed, the cancerous cells may never grow back. However, to reduce the chances of the recurrence of cancer, the vet will prescribe chemotherapy. If the tumor is large and is inoperable or has spread to other organs, the dog will only have a few months to live, even if he is put on chemotherapy or radiation treatment. The cancerous cells grow rapidly and will affect the dog’s mouth and other organs. The cancer can metastize in the lungs or in the lymph nodes.