Mouths are vital to our dogs. Not only do they eat and drink using their mouths, but the mouth is also an essential part of how they investigate and interact with their world. This is why it is important to make sure they have great oral health and check their mouths regularly for signs of any problems, including the presence of any lumps or bumps. The best way to check is to have a look when completing your regular dog tooth brushing.
Finding any lump on our pets is worrying, and can be particularly so in areas like the mouth. There are a number of potential causes, varying from minor and benign to cancerous and fast progressing, so any new bump in the mouth should prompt a trip to the vet to confirm the reason for the lump and devise a plan to treat or remove the lump if possible. As some of the causes can be fast-growing, the vet should be consulted as soon as possible after the discovery of the lump
Signs and symptoms of lumps or bumps in the mouth
Any visible lump or bump in the mouth is obviously a symptom, but – particularly if the dog’s mouth is not examined regularly – owners may not spot them until they are large enough to be causing other signs. Lumps that arrive on the gums towards the rear of the mouth or sit under the tongue are hidden unless the dog’s tongue is lolling out of the side of their mouth can easily be missed for some time.
Other signs include:
- Blood left on chew toys or blood streaks in the saliva
- Bad breath
- Excessive drooling
- Not wanting the mouth touched
- Pawing at the mouth because of discomfort or pain
- Reluctance to eat or swallowing food in chunks as reluctant to chew, which can lead to
- Weight loss
- Teeth becoming crooked and pushed out of alignment.
Causes of lumps or bumps in the mouth in dogs
Whenever we find a lump on a much-loved pet, it is not uncommon for our minds to leap straight to the worst-case scenario. While there are cancers that can produce malignant tumours in the mouth area, there are also non-cancerous causes. Your vet can test the lump if needed by taking a biopsy, which is another reason to make that vet visit promptly.
Epulis, also known as gum boils, are the most common benign lump found in the mouth. The same colour as the gum and smooth in appearance, they are typically found between the canine or incisor teeth. They can be either low and rounded or at the end of a stalk, standing up from the lower jaw or hanging from the upper jaw. Older dogs are more likely to have epulis, over the age of six years, and they are common in flat faced, brachycephalic breeds such as boxers, bulldogs and pugs. Although benign, as these boils grow in size they can begin to cause problems with eating, drooling, bad breath and making the teeth crooked by pushing them out of place. The vet can confirm that the lump is a boil and remove if it has become a problem.
Viral papillomas. While boils appear in older dogs, oral papillomatosis, caused by the canine papilloma virus, usually occurs in dogs under two years old. Their immune systems remain not fully developed enough at this age to be able to fight off viral conditions. These lumps are contagious between dogs and spread through direct contact between dogs. They appear as typically small cauliflower-shaped growths with a jagged surface, usually on the lips and muzzle. Most cases resolve naturally, disappearing on their own within a period of five to six months. Although rare, some papilloma growths can become malignant and so, on the discovery of the lumps, your vet should check them out.
Mouth injuries. An injury that has gone unseen, like a foreign object such as a stick poking into the gum and leaving splinters when the dog was out of sight, a cracked tooth or undiagnosed and untreated tooth problems can result in infections in the mouth. If these occur within the gums, they could form an abscess, resulting in painful red swelling, with possible pus leakage and bad breath.
Malignant mouth tumours:
A number of cancerous tumours can be found in the mouth of dogs, although three, in particular, are the most common.
Malignant melanomas are the most common form of mouth cancer in dogs. The melanoma forms due to an abnormality in the way that the cells that produce pigment in the body grow and divide. Malignant melanomas usually appear on the lips, gums and soft palate although can grow on the tongue. Dogs with pigmented mouths like the Chow Chow seem to be particularly prone. Other predisposed breeds include poodles, dachshunds and golden retrievers. Dogs with this type of tumour are usually older, having reached maturity. These tumours grow quickly and aggressively, causing facial swelling in the area of the growth, difficulty eating, bad breath and bleeding from the tumour itself, and can spread to other areas of the body such as the lungs and lymph nodes.
Squamous cell carcinoma more commonly associated with cats; this growth can also occur in dogs. The typical place to see this type of lump is the gingiva, the gum surrounding the teeth, causing bad breath, drooling and difficulty eating. This cancer is very aggressive and can, later in the disease’s development, spread through other parts of the body. If discovered near the front of the mouth, it may be possible to remove the mass surgically, and recovery is often good if this is the case.
Fibrosarcoma, aggressive and invasive within localised areas, this type of growth can also invade other areas in the body as the disease advances. Typically, they present as a red boil or ulcer on the mouth’s fibrous tissues and have a tendency to ulcerate and bleed. This kind does not tend to grow as fast as other types of oral tumour and may be able to be treated.
Other less common malignant tumours can occur in a dog’s mouth, and it is very important that a vet examines and diagnoses the cause of the lump as soon as possible, so appropriate treatment can begin.
How to treat lumps or bumps in the mouth in dogs
Frequent examinations of your dog’s mouth, for instance, while completing regular teeth brushing, will allow you to spot any new and suspicious lumps or bumps as quickly as possible and take your dog to the vet to have them looked at. The vet will take a biopsy of the lump to check if it is cancerous and then, following the diagnosis, will decide a treatment plan, including whether the lump can be safely removed. Some cancerous tumours, following removal, will then be treated using either chemotherapy or radiation.
As many of the lumps or bumps that dogs can get in their mouths can be painful and make eating difficult, feeding a high quality, easy to eat and digest diet will help them gain maximum nutrition with of minimum of pain. Our recipes contain human grade ingredients and can be made up with extra water to make life easier for a sore mouth.