Leukoplakia in Dogs & Cats

All About Leukoplakia

A recent VDS case showed the need to test every abnormal finding in the mouth.

What is it?
Leukoplakia is essentially a non-inflamed white area typically found sublingual. It is not uncommon in veterinary patients (both dogs and cats). Leukoplakia often presents itself as white and gray patches inside the mouth. These patches may be caused by irritation or a sign of oral cancer.

How do we treat it?
At VDS, we perform a biopsy. Incisional in large lesions and excisional in smaller ones (basically, do no harm). The vast majority of the lesions will be essentially scar tissue from trauma. However, leukoplakia is also known to be a precancerous change. That was the histologic diagnosis in this case.

This case highlights the importance of testing EVERY abnormal finding in the mouth. Most of them will be benign (fibromas, gingival hyperplasia, or scars), but a small percentage (anecdotally 1%) will be cancerous. It is impossible to monitor the oral cavity in most cases, and the key to successful therapy of oral neoplasia is early detection and treatment. In this case, the precancerous area was completely excised and thus represented a surgical cure.

Finally, this demonstrates the importance of a complete oral exam during dental therapy. If the oral exam did not include careful sublingual evaluation, this would have been missed with potentially catastrophic results.

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