Oral cancer is often seen as the ailment of smokers and drinkers. Your cat is not a smoker, and they shouldn't be drinking alcohol, either—but like any human, they may be at risk for oral cancer. As a responsible cat owner, it's important to know about the signs and symptoms of oral cancer so you can get your cat the proper treatment if needed.
What are the signs of oral cancer in cats?
The signs of oral cancer are hard to distinguish from those of other problems like tooth decay and gum disease. So, if you notice any of these signs, you should take your cat to the vet, who will examine them and determine whether cancer or another ailment is to blame:
- Refusal to eat foods your cat once loved.
- Only eating soft foods while steering clear of hard foods.
- Chewing with the head tilted.
- Dropping food out of the side of the mouth while chewing.
- Meowing in pain while chewing.
- Hissing or backing away when you try to pet their head or face.
- No longer rubbing their face and head on things like they used to.
- The appearance of white or black patches on your cat's gums.
What will your vet do about oral cancer?
If your vet suspects that your cat has oral cancer, he or she will likely take a biopsy of the growth or the affected patch of oral tissue to determine what type of cancer your cat has. Sometimes, the growth may actually be benign (not cancerous), in which case your vet may recommend either removing it so it stops causing pain, or continuing to observe it to ensure it does not get any worse.
If the growth is, in fact, cancerous, your vet will probably remove it surgically. Then, depending on the type of cancer it is found to be, your cat may be given radiation therapy to help kill any remaining cancer cells. Sometimes, the tissue around the growth may be frozen to stop the tumor from spreading.
What's the prognosis for a cat with oral cancer?
Every case is different. Some cats go on to live long and happy lives once the cancer is removed. They may have to stick to soft diets that are easier to chew. Other times, the cancer may come back or spread to other tissues, eventually taking your cat's life. Your veterinarian can give you a more precise idea of your cat's prognosis depending on how severe your cat's oral cancer is and what type of growth they have developed.