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Grey Tabby Cat Needs Tumor Removed…from Her Mouth!

March 12, 2011
red, swollen, lumpy hard gingival overgrowth covering the incisors and three-quarters of this cat's upper canine tooth

Gingival lymphoma in a cat

or, Should You Take Your Cat to the Kitty Oncologist?

10-Year-Old Grey Tabby Cat Has a Mouth Problem

Most grey tabby cats pull at Doc Truli’s heartstrings. After all, her first cat, Charlie, was a tiny grey mackerel tabby barn cat who passed away from rampant intestinal worms when he was only 8 weeks old.

Frenchie gazed peacefully at the Doc, and gave kitty kiss eyes by blinking–almost winking–slowly and deliberately, like she knew that Doc liked her from the start. The 10-year-old short-haired grey-striped tabby cat knew her audience well!

“I had a dental done on her about 3 months ago,” said Frenchie’s mom,”and after I got to the hospital to pick her up, the nurse told me they found something in her mouth and they asked me if I wanted to pay extra for a biopsy.  I said “no,” because I was so confused and the vet refused to come out to the waiting room and answer my questions.”

Not commenting on the back story, Doc asked to see Frenchie, “Well, let’s take a look, and see what we can do.”

Frenchie sat still for her exam.  Her body was fine.  No heart murmurs, good muscles, nice smooth fur.  But this foul odor emanated from her mouth.  Doc grew concerned.  A cat who had just undergone a thorough cleaning at another animal hospital should not have such a foul mouth odor, unless something were very wrong!

Mouth Tumor in a Cat

Once Doc lifted Frenchie’s lip, she saw the lovely raised, bulging, firm red irregular but smooth mass that you see in the picture above. The tiny incisor teeth that a cat uses for grooming and flea hunting in their fur were nearly 100% covered by the growing gum mass. The tip of the canine tooth poked through the mess. Plaque and bacteria wedged into the space between the tooth and the mass.

“Would it help to do surgery?” asked Frenchie’s mom.

That’s a good question. Here’s the thing. There are several kinds of diseases that can cause a growth like the one we saw. Most are cancer, some are not. All are invasive in the area and could continue to grow and cause a hiding place for bacteria and disease to linger.

Common Growths in a Cat Mouth

  • Lymphoma
  • Epulis (not cancer)
  • Carcinoma
  • amelanotic Melanoma
  • Inflammation from Foreign Body (like stinger or splinter) (not cancer)
  • Gingival Hyperplasia from Feline Stomatitis (not cancer)

“We won’t know what the mass is unless we biopsy it,” said Doc Truli. “I will go ahead and try to remove it enough to make her comfortable. Depending what the results show, she may need an extensive surgery called a hemi-maxillectomy, or chemotherapy, or maybe you will elect no further treatments. We’ll decide when the time comes.”

Frenchie’s Surgery

Frenchie did great for the surgery. Doc removed as much of the mass as possible. Luckily, it stopped bleeding fairly quickly. The location in the mouth precluded removal with any margins of safety at te edges of the growth. The odds of regrowth were extremely high, especially if no follow-up radiation or chemotherapy occurred.

The growth has been excised away.  The red bleeding smooth gums heal in about 5 days.  The canine tooth is freed from its cancerous crypt!

Post debulking surgery, the red gums are smooth and heal in 5-10 days.

The biopsy results showed the lump to be lymphoma. Lymphoma is a cancerous overgrowth of immune system cells called lymph cells. Lymph cells normally travel all over the body to fight infection. Therefore, cancerous lymphoma spreads easily because lymph are already traveling cells. The good news is, lymphoma responds readily to chemotherapy. About half of all cats diagnosed and treated for lymphoma with a full, proper treatment protocol will go into remission.

Lymphoma is a cancerous overgrowth of immune system cells called lymph cells.

Pawspice Care Instead of Aggressive Attempt for a Cure

Frenchie’s mom did not have the time or financial resources, nor the heart to make Frenchie feel sicker by giving her chemotherapy drugs. It’s always a personal family decision.

How Do You Know if You Should Take Your Cat to the Kitty Oncologist?  You Should If…

  • Does your veterinarian recommend an oncology consult?
  • Do you have a diagnosis?
  • Have you given to green light for your veterinarian to Stage the cancer.  This means, chest radiographs, abdominal ultrasound, blood work, urinalysis.  And also health testing for feline leukemia, feline AIDs virus, and toxoplasmosis that you would not want to activate through chemotherapy suppressing the normal immune system and allowing these disease to kill your kitty.
  • Would you feel guilty if you did not see the kitty oncologist?
  • Can you afford a day a week to drop off your kitty at the hospital and is your kitty the personality type that wold forgive the humans for drawing blood and/or giving injections every 1-2 weeks for 3-6 months?

Some cats and people get their vet visits done on time and rearrange their finances to handle the strain. Other people know their cats will hate all the vet visits, even just for blood work to check white blood cell levels. These families choose palliative care sometimes called Pawspice care, to help their cats be as strong and comfortable as possible without reaching for a cure with strong, sometimes dangerous and expensive medications.

Frenchie’s Fate

Frenchie’s mass stayed away for 3 months, then it slowly returned. Finally, it grew over the canine tooth and a quarter of the way back into her palette. She started to drool and avoid food and she started loosing weight.  At the point where she seemed to be in pain and the prescription painkillers no longer helped, her mom brought her for Doc Truli to help her pass away peacefully.

Perhaps with another very aggressive surgery, chemotherapy, and maybe radiation therapy, Frenchie could have lived some more happy years.  There is no one right decision!  For Frenchie, she lived a calm, loved existence, and she did not have to recover from a massive surgery to try and save her life.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Gina permalink
    May 22, 2015 9:33 pm

    WOW. What is wrong with that cat?!?!?!!?f

  2. October 22, 2013 3:36 pm

    Glutoxim – a drug I acquired from a Russian doctor friend of mine during her visit to the former Soviet Union, fixes most of these problems with no side effects. It’s nearly impossible to get here in the United States because 1) it’s cheap, and 2) it works, so there’s no money to be made off of long term care.

  3. March 13, 2011 3:48 pm

    I just want to make the point that chemo does not necessarily mean discomfort or side effects for dogs, like it does for people. I think — maybe I’m wrong — that for cats, as well as dogs, the goal for veterinary chemo is to give a dose that is large enough to slow or stop the cancer, but low enough that it won’t cause symptoms/side effects in 90% of those treated.

    People tend to assume chemo for their animals will cause the same symptoms (nausea, vomiting, hair loss, pain, etc.), that it might cause for humans, but this is generally not the case. Gadget, my service dog, had 6 months of chemo for lymphoma, and he only once, in that entire time, had any symptoms from the drugs. Even in that case, it was mild and short-lived.

    For him, chemo put him into remission and made him feel great. His lymphoma symptoms receded from the very first treatment. We often stopped at the pond on the way home from chemo for him to run around and go for a swim.

    I know that cats are not dogs, and usually visits to the vet are much more traumatic for cats than dogs, but I just wanted to raise the point that when considering chemo, it shouldn’t automatically be assumed it will cause a reduction in quality of life. Our oncologist told us the goal of chemo was to improve quality of life.

    In people, the goal of chemo is cure, so the dose is very high; basically just enough not to kill the person, but to try to kill the cancer. Thus, higher rates of cure, but also high rates of misery due to chemo.

    In dogs, only 1-10% (depending on your source) will be cured of lymphoma by chemo, but the great majority do go into remission and have increased quality of life/reduced symptoms, as well as a longer life. The goal is not cure, but remission with as few side effects as possible.

    It’s still a grueling and incredibly expensive decision, and there are no guarantees, as I know all-too-well, that your animal will be one of the majority with a long survival/remission time and/or no side effects from chemo. But it’s good to have as much info as possible when making the decision.

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