Overlooked symptom of squamous Q & A
Q: Velvet, my 13-year-old cat, has been drooling and refusing her dry food. Her veterinarian found a lump under her tongue and enlargement of the nearby lymph nodes.
A biopsy revealed that Velvet has squamous cell carcinoma, and her veterinarian regretfully advised me that treatment probably won’t help. I’m devastated.
What can you tell me about oral squamous cell carcinoma in cats?
A: Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the most common oral tumor in cats. Average onset is 12 to 13 years of age. Risk factors include:
- exposure to tobacco smoke
- use of a flea collar and
- eating tuna or canned cat food
In humans, poor dental hygiene is associated with oral SCC, so the association with diet in cats may be related to the gingivitis that develops when they eat mostly soft food and don’t have their teeth cleaned regularly.
Clinical signs of SCC in cats include loss of appetite and energy, decreased self-grooming, drooling and bad breath.
Oral SCC can develop anywhere in the mouth, throat and even on the lips. Most often, the tumor forms on or under the tongue or in the gums, sometimes loosening one or more teeth. One in 3 oral SCC tumors spreads to the nearby lymph nodes.
Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment help only when started very early in the course of the disease. Even then, only 9.5% of cats survive a year after diagnosis.