Salivary Gland Tumors in Cats: A Detailed Guide Tumor in Felines: What you need to Know

Salivary Gland Tumors in Cats: A Detailed Guide

A salivary gland tumor refers to the abnormal growth of cells within the salivary glands, which can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). This article examines the causes, signs, treatment, and possible prevention of this condition in felines.

Cats, like humans, are prone to a variety of health conditions, including tumors. One such type of tumor that can affect feline health is a salivary gland tumor. Salivary gland tumors, although relatively rare in cats, can have significant implications for their overall well-being.

This article will provide an overview of salivary gland tumors in cats, shedding light on their causes, types, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment modalities.

Causes of Salivary Cysts in Cats

The exact causes of salivary cysts in cats are not fully understood. However, a number of factors, such as the following, have been identified as potential contributors to the growth of malignant tumors:

  • Genetic predisposition: Some cat breeds may be more prone to developing salivary gland cancers. Siamese and Persian cats, for example, have been observed to have a greater prevalence of malignant cancers than other breeds.

  • Age: Salivary gland tumors can occur at any age in cats, although they are more prevalent in older cats, generally those over the age of 10.

  • Gender: Male cats tend to be more susceptible to salivary gland cancers than females. This gender bias is most noticeable in intact (unneutered) men.

  • Toxin exposure: Toxin exposure, such as cigarette smoke, chemicals, or radiation, has been indicated as a potential risk factor for the development of salivary gland cancers in cats.

  • Viral infections: Certain viral infections may raise the incidence of salivary gland cancer in cats, according to certain studies. However, the precise significance of viral infections in tumor growth is yet unknown.

  • Prior inflammation or trauma: Chronic inflammation or prior damage to the salivary glands, such as infections or physical traumas, may raise the chance of developing tumors.

Symptoms of Feline Salivary Carcinoma

Salivary cyst cat symptoms can vary depending on the location, size, and nature (benign or malignant) of the tumor. These include: 

  • Visible swelling: Swelling or a noticeable lump in the area of the salivary glands, typically around the jaw, neck, or under the tongue, may be observed. The swelling may be firm or soft to the touch.

  • Difficulty eating or swallowing: Cats with salivary gland tumors may show reluctance or pain while eating, drop food from their mouth, or exhibit excessive drooling.

  • Change in appetite or weight loss: A decreased appetite or unexplained weight loss can be indicative of a salivary gland tumor. 

  • Bad breath (halitosis): Foul-smelling breath may be present due to the presence of the tumor and associated oral health issues.

  • Oral discharge: Cats with salivary gland tumors may have a lot of saliva or mucous discharge from their mouth. Blood may be present in the discharge.

  • Cats may show signs of pain or discomfort in the facial region. They may paw their faces, rub them against surfaces, or show signs of facial sensitivity.

  • Facial asymmetry: As the tumor grows, it may cause facial asymmetry, giving the patient a lopsided appearance or visible facial distortion.

  • Respiratory problems: If the tumor grows large enough or invades nearby structures, it can obstruct the airways, causing breathing problems, snoring, or wheezing.

  • Behavioral changes: Cats with salivary gland tumors may display changes in behavior, such as increased irritability, restlessness, or withdrawal from social interactions.


The following diagnostic techniques are commonly employed for salivary mucocele in cats:

  • Physical examination 

  • Fine needle aspiration (FNA)

  • Radiographs (X-rays) or advanced imaging techniques.

  • Biopsy 

  • Additional tests such as blood tests, X-rays of the chest, and other imaging modalities.

Treatment and Management Options

Salivary mucocele in cats treatments for cats includes one or more of the following:

  • Surgical Removal: Surgical excision is the primary treatment for salivary gland tumors in cats. To reduce the chance of recurrence, the tumor must be entirely removed along with a margin of healthy tissue. 

  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy which involves the use of targeted radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors, may be recommended, especially for malignant or aggressive salivary gland tumors. 

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy which uses drugs that target and destroy rapidly dividing cancer cells, may be considered for malignant salivary gland tumors that have the potential to spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. 

  • Palliative Care: Palliative care may involve pain management, supportive care, and addressing any secondary complications associated with the tumor to manage the symptoms, improve quality of life, and provide comfort to the cat. 

Preventive Tips

Some general measures you can take to promote your cat's overall health and potentially reduce the risk of developing tumors are:

  • Regular veterinary care: Set up periodic appointments with your vet to keep an eye on your cat's health and spot any anomalies early.

  • Oral hygiene: Maintain good oral hygiene for your cat. Brushing your cat's teeth regularly using cat-specific toothbrushes and toothpaste can help reduce the risk of oral health problems, including inflammation or infection that could potentially affect the salivary glands.

  • Avoid exposure to toxins: Minimize your cat's exposure to environmental toxins and potential carcinogens like tobacco smoke, chemical fumes, and other hazardous substances that could contribute to the development of tumors.

  • Balanced diet: Feed your cat a balanced and nutritious diet appropriate for their life stage. Providing high-quality cat food that meets their nutritional needs helps support their overall health and immune system.

  • Spaying or neutering: Consider spaying or neutering your cat. This can reduce the risk of certain hormone-related conditions and potentially lower the likelihood of developing certain types of tumors, although there is limited specific research on salivary gland tumors with spaying/neutering.

  • Environmental enrichment: Create a stimulating and stress-free environment for your cat. Provide opportunities for mental and physical exercise, interactive playtime with toys, and safe outdoor access (if applicable) to promote overall well-being.

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