Zander and the importance of Oral Health

Zander, a 14-year-old neutered male Domestic Shorthair, presented to Hinsdale Animal Hospital for evaluation after the owners noticed Zander’s breath had become foul smelling. A dental cleaning and examination was scheduled and Dr. Plomin was able to perform a complete oral examination with the patient under anesthesia. Not only was Zander found to have significant dental disease but also, in the back corner of his mouth, a large oral mass was seen. A biopsy of the mass was performed and it was identified as an invasive oral squamous cell carcinoma.

The squamous cell carcinoma is the most common oral malignancy in cats, and unfortunately for Zander, it has one of the poorest outcomes. In most cases, the goal is to minimize infection and pain until the tumor has advanced to a state where the patient is no longer comfortable. Zander lived his life in a smoking household, one of the most important risk factors for developing this tumor. In fact, the risk of oral squamous cell carcinoma in cats goes up four times when the owner smokes 1 to 19 cigarettes daily.

KP_Xander2Sadly, treatment options are limited for oral squamous cell carcinoma and less than 10% of cats survive for one year following diagnosis. Depending on the location of the tumor, surgery +/- radiation and chemotherapy may be used to help increase survival times, with the highest success rates being in patients where the tumor is found early in its course.

Unfortunately for Zander, his tumor was not detected until it was too late. Early detection can be achieved by bringing all cats into the veterinarian’s office for yearly oral examinations and dental care.