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Mouth Cancer (Melanocytic) in Cats


Oral Melanocytic Tumors in Cats


Oral tumors can be extremely debilitating and painful disease for cats, often resulting in death. Melanocytic tumors, which are the third most common oral tumors in cats, arise from a local invasion by neoplastic menlanocytic cells (melanin-producing cells) to the gingival surface. These tumors are usually raised, irregular, ulcerated, have a dead surface, and are highly aggressive and invasive to the bone. In fact, such tumors may cause death as they render an animal unable to eat and metastasize to other body parts.


Symptoms and Types


  • Loose teeth
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Face deformities
  • Excessive salivation (ptyalism)
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Oral discharge containing blood
  • Weight loss (cachexia)




The underlying cause for oral melanocytic tumors is currently unknown.



You will need to give a thorough history of your cat’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms, to your veterinarian. He or she will then perform various laboratory tests, including a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and complete blood count -- the results of which are typically normal -- as well as a physical examination, especially of the oral cavity.


Your veterinarian will also take a small deep tissue sample from the mass in the oral cavity, including a part of bone to be sent to a veterinary pathologist for further evaluation. Such biopsy samples are usually helpful in making a definitive diagnosis. In addition, X-rays of the oral cavity, skull, and lungs will help in the evaluation of the extent and location of metastasis.




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