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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Laser Surgery For Oral Cancer in Dogs

Updated: May 6th, 2019

When a dog lover is contemplating a surgery to remove a canine cancer, we should remember there are different ways to do surgeries.

Depending on the way the surgery is done, certain things can be improved upon that would otherwise make recovery harder.

Some of these are:

  • pain
  • blood loss
  • swelling

One of the challenges when a vet faces when removing a tumor in the mouth, or some other areas, is bleeding.



Blood less makes recovery tougher on the dog.  Bleeding also tends to block the view of the surgeon, since the nurse is always having to dab the site and sponge off the blood.  This slows the procedure down and the dog has to be anesthetized for a longer duration.

There are different ways to control blood loss.  The most common is “tying off” a bleeding vessel using a piece of suture material.  Sometimes we simply use a small instrument to clamp the bleeding vessel to make it stop hemorrhaging.

The mouth is an area that is difficult to control blood loss using these traditional techniques. The clamps fall off and the bleeders are hard to tie off.

This is where the surgical laser comes in.  A laser is simply a high-intensity beam of energy that can be used in surgery to separate tissue.  The great thing about the laser is that is seals off the ends of small blood vessels.  This stops a lot of the blood loss that can affect our dogs when they faced with a surgery like this.


For more useful information and tools, get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide


The laser seals of nerves and lymphatics too.  This tends to decrease pain and swelling too, but I always recommend medication for pain and inflammation, regardless.

So consider the use of a surgical laser, especially if there is a growth that needs to be removed in an area like the mouth. Common tumors in this area are melanomas, fibrosarcomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and different types of epuli (an epulis one of a group of mouth tumors).

There are a fair number of veterinarians that use this tool, including myself, and it really helps make things easier on our loved dogs.

Best to all,

Dr. D

Discover the Full Spectrum Approach to Dog Cancer

Leave a Comment





  1. Dee on May 23, 2019 at 7:52 pm

    My 13 year old Jack Russell had several teeth removed along with a small Epulis tumor at the lower front of her jaw in January 2019. 2 weeks after the initial surgery the tumor begin to return, I took her back for exam and the vet said she had a deep infection prescribed antibiotics and offered another surgery for Removal of Tumor again. For a third time 2 weeks after the tumor returned! I was Stunned and confused, frustrated and requested another Vet who immediately sent a sample out for biopsy, upon results we were told it’s beneign, but would need to visit a Specialist immediately. We did and were told by the Specialist thst my dog needs a small portion of her jaw removed to successfully remove all rogue cells. It has now been. 4 weeks and the Tumor is extremely large and causing much discomfort for my dog. Our funds were Depleted on prior surgeries, meds, and treatments. They want 3k for the Specialist surgery. I can’t find any charitable services to help us pay her Urgently needed surgery. We’re running out of time and resources, our dog is Not a pet she is Family, and this has been the most difficult situation for my entire family to see her in such distress. What or how can we treat her at home to at least make her feel better, we’re trying herbs and holistic diet..but the turmor seems to continue growing.

    • Dog Cancer Vet Team on May 24, 2019 at 8:31 am

      Hey Dee,

      Thanks for writing and we’re sorry to hear about your girl. As Dr. D writes in the Dog Cancer Survival Guide, there are a number of things that you can do to help your dog with cancer– under your vet’s supervision. Conventional treatments (chemo, surgery, and radiation), nutraceuticals, immune boosters and anti-metastatics, diet, and mind-body strategies. This is what he calls the Full Spectrum Approach to Cancer Care.

      When deciding on a treatment plan, there are a number of factors that have to be taken into consideration. Can your girl handle another surgery? Can you handle the side-effects from treatments? Do you have a budget? These are just some of the factors that you will have to consider when deciding on a treatment plan 🙂

      There are places that you can turn to for financial assistance. We have included a chapter excerpt from the Dog Cancer Survival Guide on Financial Assistance For Dog Cancer on the Dog Cancer Blog as we understand that this can be an issue for readers. You can check out the chapter here: https://www.dogcancerblog.com/articles/book-excerpt/financial-assistance-for-dogs-with-cancer/

      You also have to remember that you need to take care of yourself 🙂 We know it’s tough to do, but you have to be in the right frame of mind to make more knowledgable decisions for your girl 🙂 Molly wrote an AMAZING article on Caregiver Stress that you may find super helpful 🙂

      So don’t forget to take care of yourself, and check out those resources 🙂

      We hope this helps!

  2. PATRICK FERRARA on September 25, 2011 at 8:42 am

    ASK QUESTIONS
    A GROWTH APPEARED IN MY HUSKY’S MOUTH. TOOK HER TO VET AND HE SAYS THAT WILL HAVE TO BE REMOVED SURGERY ON MONDAY. THERE IS AN OTHER VET THERE AND DOES THE SURGERY. 4-5 ONTHS LATER SHE IS BACK HAVING THE SAME SURGERY. MY VET IS THERE. AT THAT TIME HE TELLS MEI TS CANCER AND WHEN REMOVED THE GROWTH,HE SAID THE CLOSEST LYMPHNODE WAS LOADED AN THE LABS CAME BACK FROMONE LAB SAYING IT BENIGN ND ITS NOT BENIGN. THE ONCOLGIST MADE =NO ENSE. MY DOC GIVES ME A CHOICE CHEMO OR HOULISTIC. MY HEAD WAS SPINNING I ASKED THE A SAMPLE BE SENT A LAB IN COLORADO, IT CAME BACK BENIGH, BUT NOW A GRAPEFRUIT SIZE TUMOR HAS GROWN ON HER HIP. AGAIN MY DOCTOR WASN’T THERE TO DO A BIOPSY AND OTHER DOC DOES A PUNCTURE BIOPSY FROM ONE SPOT, DEAD CENTER ON THE TUMOR, NOTHING FROM THE EDGES. A FEW DAYS LATER, MY VET ROMOVER THE TUMOR, SENT OUT SPECIMEN, COME BACKFATTY TUMOR. ALL OF A SUDDEN HE PULLS OUT HIS MICROSCOPE ON THE SAMPLE AND SAYS, HE SEES ABNORMALS AND DROPS IT AT THAT EXCEPT WHEN I WAS WALKING OUT THE DOOR, SAID TO ME I MADE A GOOD CHOICE OF HAVING TUMER REMOVED, BUT IT MIGHT COME BACK WELL IT DID, AND IM FAVING THE CHOICE SURGERY AGAGIN. I HAVE HER ON WHAT THEY CALL A CHEAP CHEOM, INITIAL VISIT TO ONCOLGIST $ 180, BLOODWORK 45 THEN THE DRUGS, 170 I RAN OUT OF THE FIRST MONTHS DRUGPACK AND VET DIDN’T WANT FILL BECAUSE I NEED TO HAVE HER TAKE A BLOOD TEST AND SEE HOW SHE IS DOING. OVER THE PHONE I RANTED AND RAVER, YOU SAID SHE HAS 3 MONTHS WHATS THE PUPOSE. SHE DIDN’T ANSWER AND PHONE IN THE PRESCRIPTION. MY DOG SHOW N SIGN OD DISCOMFORT UNTIL TODAY. WHEN I WAS WITH THE FVET, SHE TOOK SASHA TO SEETHE SURGEONS, THE THEY SAID NO SURGERY OR LEG HAS TO BE REMOVED. THIS VETINARY HOSPITAL IS IN MARTHA STWART TERRITORY, SO YOU CAN IMAGINTHE PRICES. IF ONLY I WAS TOLD FROM INTITAL SURGERY HER GROWTH WAS CANCEROUS, SHE’D BE OK TODAY

    9HE TOOK THE GROWTH OFF0

  3. Tama Bergwerff on October 8, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Our 9 year old Akita was just dignosted with cancer on her toung. Vet is sending it out to see what kind of cancer it is, Fast or slow. Said they couldn’t remove it because of where it is. Could it be lasered off. Is there anything else we can do to slow the spreading of it. She is such a wounderful dog. Any help would be GREATLY appreated.
    God Bless,
    Tama B.

  4. Sona on August 11, 2009 at 8:12 am

    Dear Sir,

    My Dog (It is in India, a Indian Dog) is sufferring with big mouth tumor looks like big cauliflower florette on the upper jaw and it is fully spreaded from right side to the left side.

    Currently he is in treatment with Vet Hospital, Veperi, Chennai, India.

    Our Doctors said it is not possible for open operation as well as laser surgery.

    And now they are giving him Chemo therapy (an injection through saline) and doctors are telling that the tumour will shrink after 2-3 dozes.

    Still the blood work result has to come.I love my dog a lot and i treat him as like my brother.

    Doctor, please advice is there is any way that my dog can be treated and cured?

    Expecting your reply as soons as posssible.

    Regards
    Sona

  5. Dan on July 6, 2009 at 6:55 am

    My 8 year old rottie has a tumor on the upper jaw between 2 teeth, my vet remove as much as the mass as possible. My vet says the mass will grow back and put my dog in pain and says we should consider putting him to sleep, he taked about surgery but said it was difficult due to location of the mass. I dont want to give up on him with out trying to help him but all so dont want to put him through hell

    please help

  6. Donna on May 29, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Once an oral cancer is removed by laser surgery can it be removed again if it grows back. Why does it grow back so quickly? The dog seems to be ok except for this growth which has come back larger. Is there anything that can slow this growh?

  7. Cristy on April 17, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    My dog has an oral tumor on the outer side of her gum area. It bleeds sometimes, what can I put on it to stop bleeding. My dog is old and has CGH the vet thinks sutgery and chemo too severe for her. Thanks

  8. Pet owner in CA on April 12, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    I did alot of reading on the web regarding lazer surgery for my dogs tounge tumor. I had received an estimate to cut the tumor out, but because of what you write here and what i have read about the CO2 lazer I tried to hunt a vet down that uses it. After having a really hard time finding the CO2 lazer i had to give up and went to a Animal hospital locally who had a lazer. I felt really stupid when the doctor informed me that using lazer surgery on a cancerous tumor would be inappropiate and if anyone said it could be done it would be grounds for “malpractice”. Something about cancer cells spreading…I felt stupid and i wasted alot of time trying to find this safer and easier way to do a likely very painful procedure. Also, one vet says tumor out $463, the lazer hosp wants $2,200-$3,500. After a misdiagnois of lock jaw disease, blood work and Xrays im already up to $800 and no one has even treated the tumor yet. wildly varying prices and approaches have us really confused. So only a lazer if it’s been determined not to be cancer? Any referal to a vet in san diego that has experience removing tounge tumors without having to hawk the farm?

    • Dr. Dressler on April 15, 2009 at 10:52 pm

      Dear pet owner,
      what a bad experience!
      What you write is amazing. No, laser surgery on cancers is not malpractice. Here are some examples:
      here is information from the Mayo Clinic. Maybe you’ve heard of them? 🙂

      taken from a cancer treatment info site:
      http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0748798308000279

      I will address your question in more detail in the upcoming Webinar:
      http://dogcancervet.com

      I am unable to give you a recommendation, I am sorry,
      Best,
      D

  9. Mark Hafner on March 15, 2009 at 3:37 am

    Hello:

    My name is Mark and I have a six year old Greman Shepard with a bright
    red raised lump on his tongue.My vet put him on antibiotic for ten days and nothing changed.He said he could do biopsie but I didn’t want to disturb it.He said speculating that it was probably a tumor.It now has gotten a little bigger.My dog is still eating and seems normal other than it seems to be licking more.I guess my question is what are his odds of a normal life if its removed.Its about the size of a penny and not quite in the center of tongue half way back in his mouth.Thank you

    • Dr. Dressler on March 16, 2009 at 6:05 pm

      Mark,
      your vet needs to answer this question. He/she is the one managing the case and is able to see what is going on, and he/she is the one holding the scalpel, which impacts the outcome of surgery. Most dogs do well without portions of their tongue. You should get it dealt with. Also, don’t hesitate to ask your vet these types of questions, as their opinions are what you are paying for…
      Best of luck,
      D

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