Excision of a portion of the upper jaw (maxillectomy) or lower jaw (mandibulectomy) are usually performed for the management of oral tumours. Oral tumours can be benign or malignant, or anywhere in between. Benign tumours affect only the local area and once removed are likely to be cured. Malignant tumours are more aggressive and not only affect the local area but also have the potential to spread elsewhere in the body, usually lymph nodes or via the blood circulation to the lungs, liver, spleen or bones, but anywhere is possible.
Should there be a lump found in the mouth of your pet, your veterinarian should initially discuss biopsy of the lump to determine what type of tumour it is and whether it is benign or malignant. This will help determine the prognosis and appropriate treatment options for your pet. X-rays of the lungs and also palpation or needle biopsy of the lymph nodes will also help to determine if there has been any secondary spread of the tumour, prior to any further treatment.
Our patients are amazing and cope with excision of large portions of the upper or lower jaw, and generally have quick recoveries and great quality of life following these procedures. Patients are generally eating and drinking the day after surgery and return to normal foods, chew toys and play after 2-4 weeks.
Surgery will be performed with the aim of curing the disease, but this may not always be possible and will be discussed further based on the results of the biopsy and x-rays. Depending on the location and size of the lump it may be advised to have a CT scan performed of the head to allow pre-surgical planning and determine if the tumour is extending further than we are able to see, and also ensure the best possible outcome and greatest chance of obtaining a cure.
Complications may be associated with the surgery itself or in the post-surgery healing period. Surgical complications are related to the size and extent of surgery required, the larger the tumour the higher the risk. There are large blood vessels and nerves which may be encountered, and blood loss may require blood transfusion, and the additional costs associated with this.
Post-surgery complications may be associated with the progress of the wound healing and infection. The tissues of the mouth have a very good blood supply and infection rates are low, however our patients may cause trauma to their wounds by constant licking and chewing, which may cause wound opening. The wound opening is usually only a portion of the original wound and may either heal on its own or require and additional short anaesthesia and surgery to close the remaining defect. Other possible complications will be discussed on an individual basis, but thankfully the overall risk of complication is small.