Corky is a thirteen year old yellow lab who came in to us to be evaluated for a tumor in the mouth, which the owners has noted growing over the past month or so. They did not notice the tumor until, it started to bleed on occasion and Corky’s appetite had fallen off. Aside from the lack of appetite, the owners were not aware of any other problems.

On presentation, Corky appeared slightly lethargic. He had a foul odor coming from the mouth and he was dripping blood from his mouth in the exam room. Raising his lips we could see a large, firm ulcerated mass as shown below:

Tumor pre-operative.

As you can see, the tumor involves a large area on the upper jaw line and extends almost to the center of the hard palate. Tumors of the mouth can be many different types, such as squamous cell carcinoma, malignant melanoma, fibrosarcoma and more. Judging from how this mass was growing so rapidly and was eating away at the hard palate, we did not expect this to be a benign tumor. Therefore, we performed pre-operative blood tests as well as radiographs of the chest and abdomen to see if there was evidence of spread of the tumor into the lungs or abdomen. Fortunately for Corky, we did not find any spread of the tumor.

Since Corky was doing well with the exception of the oral tumor, the owners decided to go ahead with surgery. We informed them that this would not likely cure the problem, but would buy Corky some time.

We anesthetized Corky and excised the tumor from the hard palate. We had to remove the teeth in the area as the tumor was invading the bone around them. We also had to remove most of the nasal turbinates (thin boney structures in the nose) on that side of the face because it appeared as if the tumor was eating into that area.

Tumor removed before closure.

You can see what a large defect removal of the tumor left in the jaw and hard palate. We performed a gingival flap, to stretch the inner surface of the cheek over the surgical defect and sewed it into place.

Wound after closure.

Corky recovered without incident with the exception of some bleeding from the nose (which was expected). He was sent home on a diet of soft gruel, antibiotics and pain medications.

The biopsy was completed about a week later and the tumor was diagnosed as an Osteosarcoma, which is a malignant tumor arising from the bone tissue. We discussed the option of pursuing radiation and/or chemotherapy with Corky, but the owners felt that they wanted him to just enjoy the rest of his life. Four weeks post operative, Corky is doing very well, eating normal food again and enjoying his days. We expect the tumor to recur, but until it does, he has regained his quality of life.