If you are worried about your furbaby developing Maine Coon mouth cancer, you’ll be pleased to know that there are many ways you can help prevent it from developing.
Keep reading to find out how!
When cats develop oral cancer it is most commonly Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Oral cancer can develop in any part of the mouth and cause symptoms like decreased food intake, lethargy, bleeding of the mouth, tooth loss, and bad breath. The most common treatment for oral cancer is the surgical removal of the tumor.
If your cat is diagnosed with mouth cancer, however, do not lose hope!
While mouth cancer is one of the most dangerous types of cancer in cats, many treatment options can help cure your cat or prolong its prognosis.
Cat cancer is terrifying to think about, but it is important to be knowledgeable about various kinds of cat cancer so you can keep an eye out for telltale symptoms.
Read on to find out what you should do if your cat is diagnosed with oral cancer, as well as what you can do to prevent it in the first place!
Maine Coon Mouth Cancer
The Maine Coon is the largest domesticated cat breed on earth.
These cats developed naturally in the cold state of Maine, which has made them much healthier than many other cat breeds because they have not been interbred.
Even though Maine Coons are typically more hardy than other cat breeds, they are not invulnerable to injury or illness. These are the top 7 health issues they suffer from.
One of the scariest things for a pet owner is a cancer diagnosis. Sadly, treating a cat with cancer is much harder than treating humans.
Feline oral cancer is a particularly dangerous kind of cancer.
Just like humans, every part of a cat’s body is made of cells. These cells provide structure and perform vital tasks throughout the body.
There are many different kinds of cells, such as:
- Bone Cells
- Skin Cells
- Blood Cells
Most cells divide and multiply for a long time before they eventually die, making way for new cells.
In some cases, however, a damaged or dying cell can continue to divide and produce copies of itself, until these abnormal cells become a tumor.
Tumors can be either benign or malignant.
Benign tumors can be annoying and even dangerous if they are in a bad spot, but they are not cancerous.
Malignant tumors, however, are cancerous.
They continue to grow and spread until they develop new tumors in other parts of the body in a process known as metastasis.
Mouth cancer or oral cancer specifically develops in a cat’s mouth.
How Common Is Mouth Cancer In Cats?
Overall, malignant tumors affect cats approximately 0.5% of the time.
While this percentage is thankfully low, oral cancer is still one of the most common cancers in cats.
When dogs develop tumors, they are more likely to be benign. In cats, however, tumors are more likely to be cancerous than in dogs.
When it comes to oral tumors in cats, about 90% of them are malignant.
What Causes Mouth Cancer In Cats?
There is no single cause of mouth cancer in cats, though cancer tends to develop similarly.
Throughout our lives, our cells reproduce asexually by dividing.
The “instructions” for each cell are contained in the nucleus, where the chromosomes are stored.
When cells divide, these chromosomes are pulled apart, so each cell has an equal amount of chromosomes.
Dividing causes these chromosomes to eventually break down.
Small caps at the end of each chromosome, known as telomeres, help keep the chromosomes strong each time they divide.
Over time, however, these telomeres degrade, and eventually the cells die.
In cancerous cells, however, these telomeres are lengthened, causing the cells to be more resilient and allowing them to form tumors.
These tumors then spread or metastasize throughout the body if the cancer is not found quickly enough.
While there is no root cause of mouth cancer in cats, certain factors may increase a cat’s likelihood of developing oral cancer.
Here are some things that might make a cat more likely to develop mouth cancer (source 1):
1. Poor Oral Health
Cat owners rarely brush their cats’ teeth as often as they brush their own, but some amount of oral health is vitally important to prevent the development of oral cancer.
If you get your cat as a kitten, you should try to get it used to having its teeth brushed.
For older cats, you may have to try dental gels or treats instead.
These are the 4 best cat dental treats.
Brushing your cat’s teeth has the added benefit of familiarity; once you get to know your cat’s mouth, it is easier to notice changes in the future such as:
- Bad Breath
- Tooth Loss
2. Not Enough Dry Food
Wet food is important for nutrition and hydration, but if you only feed your cat wet food, it might be more susceptible to oral cancer.
It is important to also provide your cat with dry food daily.
My three Maine Coon cats love these brands of dry cat food.
As a cat chews on dry food, it cracks and crumbles from the force of the cat’s teeth, scraping off plaque along the way.
3. Exposure To Carcinogens
There are, unfortunately, many carcinogens in our everyday lives.
Heavy metals found in anything from oil paints to antique glass can cause cancer.
Exposure to secondhand smoke of any kind also increases a cat’s risk of developing oral cancer.
Even flea collars have been associated with a higher risk of mouth cancer in cats.
It is believed that genetics play a factor when it comes to oral cancer, although not much is known about this.
Although scientists have not found a gene responsible for this, cats whose ancestors had cancer are more likely to develop cancer themselves.
Types Of Mouth Cancer In Cats
There are countless kinds of cancer and many different types of oral cancer that can be found in cats.
1. Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is by far the most common kind of oral cancer in cats, making up about 69% of oral cancer cases in felines.
A carcinoma is a solid kind of cancer that develops in the epithelial cells.
Squamous cell carcinoma specifically develops in the squamous cells of the epidermis.
These cancers are typically slow to metastasize, but oral squamous cell carcinoma is often locally aggressive, meaning it quickly spreads throughout the mouth.
Fibrosarcomas make up about 18% of all oral cancer cases in felines, making it the second most common kind of oral cancer in cats.
Sarcomas are cancers that develop either in the soft tissue or in the bone.
Fibrosarcoma specifically develops in the connective tissues surrounding the bone.
Osteosarcoma is a kind of cancer of the bone. While it usually develops in the limbs, it can also develop in the skull.
Osteosarcoma of the jaw is considered a kind of oral cancer.
Osteosarcoma is usually slow-growing and unlikely to metastasize, but treatment usually involves amputation if the tumor is found in the limbs.
This means treatment for oral osteosarcoma is often difficult.
Ameloblastoma is an incredibly rare cancer of the jaw or teeth.
In most cases, an ameloblastoma mass is benign, but it can be cancerous as well. Cancerous ameloblastoma is highly aggressive.
5. Peripheral Odontogenic Fibroma
This kind of cancer occurs in the gums, ligaments, and bones of or near the teeth.
It most commonly develops in the front of a cat’s upper jaw.
Signs Of Mouth Cancer In Cats
If you have noticed something odd about your cat lately, chances are cancer is not the first conclusion you jump to.
Still, it is good to be informed about the warning signs of cancer, so you can be prepared if you notice anything ‘off’.
Here are some of the most common cat mouth cancer symptoms:
If your cat’s breath has become noticeably worse lately, you should probably go in for a vet visit.
While bad breath can easily indicate something other than cancer such as gingivitis, cavities, or sickness, it is still worth asking your vet about it, just in case.
Cats with oral cancer often experience serious discomfort or pain in their mouths, leading to a decreased appetite and subsequent weight loss.
Cats with mouth cancer might also lose weight because their body is spending all of its energy fighting off the cancer.
Does your cat run to its wet food during dinner time, but barely eats anything?
Cats with oral cancer often show a desire to eat food but may stop after a few bites or refuse to eat anything at all.
You may also notice that your cat only chews on one side, which could indicate cancer spreading on the opposite side of its mouth.
One of the most common signs of pain in a cat is aggression.
Does your cat hiss or lash out when you reach to touch it?
Has your usually sweet cat started snapping or growling if you bump against its head?
While many people assume signs of aggression mean their cat is angry or mean, these are all defensive mechanisms that cats use to protect themselves, particularly if they are hurt or sick.
Here are the key ways to identify and handle Maine Coon aggression.
Has your cat spent more time under the bed or in the closet lately?
If so, it might indicate that your cat is feeling unwell or experiencing pain.
Cats in busy households with children or other pets might hide more to avoid physical contact which may be painful.
Lethargy alone is unlikely to be cancer, but if you notice your cat has been less active, you should keep an eye out for other signs of unusual behavior.
Signs Of Pain
Cats are generally very good at hiding when they are in pain, and it can be difficult or even impossible for an owner to tell if their cat is hurt.
When cats are in pain, they often sit in a hunched position. However, some cats purr while in pain as a self-soothing mechanism.
If your cat is reluctant to be petted on its head or face, this could also be a sign of oral cancer.
Drooling, Thick Saliva
Cats with oral cancer often start drooling more often.
Your cat’s saliva may become thicker and ropey, and may or may not contain blood as well.
Lesions And Ulcers
If you have noticed bleeding from your cat’s mouth, you should look for:
- Open Sores
Cats with oral cancer often form lesions that do not heal.
Keep an eye out for swelling in your cat’s jaw, gums, and anywhere inside the mouth.
If you notice a mass that gets larger over time, you should take your cat to the vet to rule out cancer.
Cat Mouth Cancer Treatment
If you bring your cat in suspecting cancer, your vet will first need to perform some diagnostics.
Here is how vets diagnose cancer in cats:
1. Initial Check-Up
At first, your vet will simply look at the affected site, and possibly feel around inside your cat’s mouth for swelling or masses.
If your vet suspects cancer or a different underlying medical problem, they will likely take a sample of your cat’s blood for testing.
This can rule out other conditions and give your vet a better idea of what your cat is dealing with.
3. Fine Needle Aspiration
Your vet might take a sample of your cat’s cells with fine needle aspiration, where a tiny needle and syringe suction cells are placed on a microscope slide.
This is a less invasive procedure than a biopsy, but if the results are inconclusive then a biopsy may be necessary, as well.
If your cat needs a biopsy, the vet will cut out a small portion of the tumor to examine under a microscope.
Experts can use these samples of the cat’s tumor to understand what kind of cancer your cat has and how likely it is to grow and spread.
Sometimes, your vet might take an MRI, radiographs, or a CT scan to see where the cancer is located or spreading.
This is often done before surgery so the vets can come up with a plan for how to remove it.
If your cat has been diagnosed with cancer, your vet will provide a more thorough run-down of where and how it has developed, as well as your treatment options.
Here are the ways vets can treat oral cancer in cats:
Usually, the first and most common form of treatment for feline oral cancer is surgery.
The ultimate goal is to remove as much of the malignant tumor as possible.
Surrounding tissue is often excised as well since cancerous cells can form around the tumor even if they do not appear as a mass.
If the cancer has invaded the bone, this may need to be surgically removed, as well.
If surgery is not possible or only partially successful, radiation is the second most common kind of treatment.
Your vet may recommend advanced radiation or a newer kind of technology known as stereotactic radiosurgery, also called SRS.
Chemotherapy is typically less successful than surgery or radiation when it comes to treating feline oral cancer.
However, it may be used in combination with surgery or radiation.
The prognosis for cats with mouth cancer is typically one and a half to four months.
Due to the shortness of time, owners often choose to manage their cat’s discomfort rather than trying to get rid of the cancer, particularly if surgery fails.
Some owners choose to bring their cats home for their final months, providing lots of love, toys, and all the delicious treats and human foods they were once denied (source 1).
How Long Can A Cat Live With Mouth Cancer?
If you have noticed a lump in your cat’s mouth, try not to panic right away.
Benign oral tumors in cats can also develop, so you should wait for an official diagnosis before assuming the worst.
If your cat has already been diagnosed with mouth cancer, then you probably want to know can cats survive mouth cancer?
Cats can survive mouth cancer if it is caught early enough and if treatment proves effective. Sadly, however, cat mouth tumor life expectancy averages just one and a half to four months.
Only about 10% of cats with mouth cancer survive longer than a year after diagnosis.
Is Mouth Cancer In Cats Painful?
Sadly, mouth cancer is often uncomfortable or seriously painful.
One of the earlier signs of cancer in cats includes a lack of appetite or an unwillingness to be pet near the affected site.
One of the most important steps in cancer treatment is pain management through medication.
When To Euthanize A Cat With Mouth Cancer
If you want to know when to euthanize a cat with cancer, it all comes down to your cat’s condition and your personal decision.
Most vets recommend euthanasia when a cat has more bad days than good days, and when its pain outweighs what pleasure it might receive from:
- Sleeping in the sun
- Spending time with its owner
If your cat spends most of its time in bed, hunched over in pain, then you might want to consider saying goodbye.
Cats with mouth cancer rarely survive longer than a year.
Thus, most owners try and strike a balance between spending as much time as possible with their cat and letting their cat go when it becomes too painful.
Maine Coon mouth cancer is something no cat owner wants to even think about, but the sad reality is that many cats with mouth cancer do not survive longer than a few months to a year.
It is incredibly important to brush your cat’s teeth and provide an adequate amount of dry food to prevent oral cancer.
If your cat has been diagnosed with mouth cancer, treatment options include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.