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If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t think about your dog’s dental care until there’s a problem…like a bump on your dog’s tongue, or you catch a whiff of bad breath.
Life is busy and no matter how good your intentions are, it’s hard to stick to a good doggy dental care plan. The next thing you know, your dog has a tooth abscess or a sore on the roof of the mouth, and you’re suddenly in a panic to get your dog to the veterinarian’s office.
I get it! Have you found a bump on your dog’s tongue, or some other unusual lump that has you worried? If so, keep reading.
5 Causes for That Bump on Your Dog’s Tongue
Dogs get lumps and bumps all over their bodies, especially as they age. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell what they are just by looking. That bump on your dog’s tongue could be any number of things, including the following:
1. Contagious Oral Papillomas
So, the good news is that dogs cannot transmit oral warts to humans or other species. They get them through mouth-to-mouth contact with another dog, sharing water, or by playing with another infected dog’s toy. They also mostly occur in dogs under two years old because of their immature immune systems.
If you suspect your older dog has contagious oral papillomas, have your dog examined by a licensed veterinarian. He/she could be suffering from a more serious condition or infection that needs to be treated.
Ugly But Not Dangerous
Oral papillomas (otherwise known as oral warts) are benign and essentially harmless. In rare circumstances, the warts can become cancerous, which is why a trip to the vet is always recommended.
If the bump on your dog’s tongue appears fleshy, clustered, or cauliflower shaped, it’s probably an oral wart. Because the virus settles in the mucous membranes, you could spot one anywhere in the dog’s mouth including on the lips, cheeks, and tongue.
Learn About: Dog Heart Murmur Life Expectancy
As ugly as they are, oral warts are harmless. Most of the time the veterinarian will be able to make a diagnosis just by looking. He or she will want to know what the dog’s activities have been, whether your dog has been with other dogs, and any other signs or symptoms you may have noticed.
It can’t be stressed enough that ANY lumps on your dog’s tongue, lips, or anywhere else on the body should be examined by a doctor. Better safe than sorry.
2. Squamous Cell Carcinomas
This type of cancer has a wart-like appearance and is caused by sun exposure. Although oral squamous cell carcinomas are more common in cats, they do occur in dogs. If you see a bump on your dog’s tongue, it’s not likely squamous cell cancer. These tumors typically develop on the roof of the mouth, under the tongue, or in the throat.
Unfortunately, squamous cell carcinomas tend to spread to the bone. Again, finding this type of cancer in your dog’s mouth isn’t common. However, if you see a lump on the roof of your dog’s mouth or under the tongue, make an appointment with the veterinarian as soon as possible. Unlike a bump on your dog’s tongue, this type of cancer is more hidden.
Squamous cell carcinoma is a fast-spreading type of skin cancer. In the mouth, it can appear as a lump or bump. On your dog’s skin it might appear as a crusty or bleeding sore that won’t heal.
They can also appear as a white growth or mass on the skin, especially in areas where the fur is very light or sparse. The reason for this is because ultraviolet rays are more easily absorbed into the skin in these places, and this is where the damaged cells become cancerous.
A Note About Dental Care:
This is a good place to mention good dental care for your dog. Whether you brush your dog’s teeth regularly, or have a groomer do it, someone is more likely to spot a bump or lump in the early stages. In the off-chance it is cancer, the prognosis is better when caught early.
3. Malignant Melanoma
Malignant melanoma is another form of skin cancer. These tumors usually develop in the mucous membranes in the dog’s mouth although about 10% of the time are found on other parts of the dog’s body. Because they grow so quickly and can spread to the body’s vital organs, it’s especially important to get a fast diagnosis.
In order for the veterinarian to get an accurate assessment, he/she will want to do biopsy. A biopsy involves taking a sample of the tumor for viewing under a microscope. In addition, blood work and a thorough examination for swollen lymph nodes will help the doctor understand whether the cancer has spread.
Canine oral fibrosarcoma is a malignant tumor affecting the mouth. It typically affects medium to large middle aged dogs. Unfortunately, they’re often discovered late. Most people don’t spend a lot of time poking around in their dog’s mouths. It’s not particularly pleasant, but having a good sense of what looks normal and what doesn’t could save your dog’s life.
With good oral care (regular, professional cleaning), all types of oral tumors can be found and treated earlier.
Fibrosarcomas are known to occur in medium-to-large breed dogs. The average age of onset is around 10 years of age. However, there is a very aggressive form that can occur in dogs younger than a year old.
The life expectancy of dogs with canine oral fibrosarcoma has improved over the years.
An abstract published in Vet J. 2018 Nov;241:1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2018.09.005. Epub 2018 Sep 5., titled, “Canine oral fibrosarcoma: Changes in prognosis over the last 30 years?” reports an improvement in life expectancy for dogs with canine oral fibrosarcoma.
Although treatment is considered aggressive, dogs overall survival rates have been reported to be 247 – 743 days. This is a huge improvement from before 2000 when the survival rate was compared at 30 – 540 days.
5. Gum Boil
Gum boils, also known as peripheral odontogenic fibromas, are benign tumors that grow on the dog’s gums and between teeth. Because these cysts tend to grow in and around the teeth, they can cause considerable pain and damage to tissue and bone.
Gum boils are typically found in smaller dogs and can occur when the teeth are too crowded. They’re normally found on the gums near the incisors.
This type of tumor is usually benign, but they can still cause a lot of problems. These fluid-filled cysts often contain an embedded tooth.
I’m Worried That It’s Cancer
Cancer is a worry whenever you find a new lump or bump on your dog. If you have recently found a lump on your dog’s tongue, you’re going to want to bring him/her to the veterinarian. It’s a no-brainer. Never take chances on your dog’s health.
Before you panic, assess the situation. Is your dog under two years of age (or somewhere around that mark?). Is the lump also accompanied by swollen lymph nodes or other signs of cancer including very poor appetite, fatigue and weight loss? Even if you think your dog DOES have some of these symptoms, there’s simply no way to tell whether it’s cancer or not with a veterinarian’s help.
For your piece of mind and your dog’s health, have a veterinarian take a look. As stated earlier, the veterinarian will likely take one look and say it’s nothing. Just an oral wart. However, if the bump doesn’t have the typical appearance of the virus, the doctor may want to do a biopsy to make sure the lump is benign (meaning non-cancerous).
Let’s be Reasonable!
Talking about cancer in dogs is a tricky subject. Most of the time, that lump or bump on your dog’s tongue is nothing to worry about. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, a cluster of bumps in your dog’s mouth (especially a young dog) is likely just a benign oral virus. Nothing to worry about.
It would be unethical not to mention some of the other serious causes of lumps and bumps on a dog. However, it’s not meant to scare you. The best defence against malignant cancer is knowledge and awareness and by reading this post, you’ve started that learning journey.
Watch your dog for signs of unusual lumps and bumps and always have them checked out by a licensed veterinarian.
I hope you were able to learn something from this post and I hope that whatever you find on your dog is benign and non-cancerous. Just remember, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and improved surgical options can help your dog living longer and happier than ever before. The trick? Catching it early.
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