Home Dogs Salivary Gland Cancer in Dogs – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Salivary Gland Cancer in Dogs – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

by Pawsome Tips
causes, syptoms and treatmetns for Salivary Gland Cancer in Dogs

Our beloved canine companions are not just pets – they’re part of our family, their well-being intimately entwined with our own. Understanding their health intricacies is pivotal, especially when it comes to conditions less known yet potentially critical, such as salivary gland cancer.

As dog protectors, the mysteries of this disease can leave us with an unease that clouds the joy these companions bring into our lives. This comprehensive guide is designed to demystify salivary gland cancer in dogs – an ailment that sounds intimidating but can be managed effectively with early detection and the proper treatment.

We’ll navigate its causes and symptoms, providing valuable insights that empower dog owners with knowledge and practical steps for a health-centered approach to canine care. This article, backed by vet-approved information, does not waver as we unravel this complex subject – for your peace of mind and your dog’s health.

Understanding the Salivary Glands in Dogs

To fully comprehend salivary gland cancer, it’s essential first to understand the function and location of the salivary glands in dogs. These glands are responsible for producing saliva, an essential bodily fluid that aids in digestion, oral health maintenance, and overall hydration. Dogs have four sets of salivary glands – parotid, mandibular, sublingual, and zygomatic. Each set of glands is integral to your dog’s overall health.

While these glands efficiently carry out their daily duties, they are susceptible to infections, cysts, and, unfortunately, cancer. Salivary gland cancer refers to the abnormal growth of cells within these glands. This type of cancer can affect any of the four salivary glands, although it is most commonly found in the mandibular and sublingual glands.

Understanding the structure and function of these glands is the first step toward a proactive approach to your dog’s health. The more knowledge we have about our companion’s anatomy, the better equipped we are to notice any abnormalities or changes that might indicate a problem.

Salivary Glands in Dogs
Image Credit: petMED

Causes of Salivary Gland Cancer in Dogs

While the exact cause of salivary gland cancer in dogs remains unknown, certain factors increase the risk. Aging is a prominent factor, with the disease most often appearing in middle-aged to older dogs. The breed also seems to play a role, as certain breeds like Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, and Dachshunds appear more prone to this disease. This suggests a possible genetic predisposition.

Environmental factors may also contribute to the development of this disease. Exposure to tobacco smoke, pesticides, and certain types of radiation has been linked to an increased risk of various cancers in dogs, including salivary gland cancer. However, it’s important to note that these are potential risk factors and not definitive causes.

Overall, the causes of salivary gland cancer are multifactorial and often interrelated. It is a complex disease requiring further research to understand its origins and triggers fully. There is no proven way to prevent it entirely, but awareness of the risk factors can help in early detection and treatment.

Symptoms of Salivary Gland Cancer in Dogs

Salivary gland cancer can manifest in symptoms, some more subtle than others. These symptoms are often easy to overlook, emphasizing the importance of regular check-ups with your vet. The most common symptoms include drooling, difficulty eating or swallowing, facial swelling, weight loss, and lethargy.

In some cases, the affected gland may cause a visible lump or swelling on one side of the dog’s face or neck. You may also notice a change in your dog’s facial expression or eye position caused by the tumor pressing on the surrounding nerves.

While these symptoms can indicate other health issues, they should never be ignored. If your dog is displaying any of these signs, it’s essential to consult with a vet as soon as possible. Early detection is key in treating and managing salivary gland cancer effectively.

Diagnosing Salivary Gland Cancer in Dogs

The first step in diagnosing salivary gland cancer is a thorough physical examination by a vet. If a tumor is suspected, your vet may perform a fine-needle aspiration to collect cells from the lump for further analysis. This is a minimally invasive procedure that can provide valuable information about the nature of the lump.

In addition to this, your vet may recommend blood tests, urine tests, and X-rays to assess your dog’s overall health and determine the extent of the disease. More advanced imaging techniques like CT scans or MRIs may be used to get a more detailed view of the affected area.

A definitive diagnosis of salivary gland cancer can only be made through a biopsy, where a small piece of the tumor is surgically removed and examined under a microscope. This allows the vet to identify the type of cells involved and the aggressiveness of the cancer, which are crucial factors in determining the most effective treatment plan.

Treatments for salivary gland cancer in dogs
Mikhail Nilov / Pexels

Treatment Options for Salivary Gland Cancer in Dogs

The treatment for salivary gland cancer in dogs largely depends on the tumor’s size, location, and stage. Surgery is often the first-line treatment, aiming to remove the entire tumor and some surrounding healthy tissue to ensure no cancerous cells are left behind. If the tumor is in a problematic location or has spread to surrounding tissues, partial removal may be performed to relieve symptoms.

In addition to surgery, radiation therapy may be recommended to kill any remaining cancer cells and prevent recurrence. This treatment can also be helpful in cases where the tumor cannot be entirely removed surgically.

Chemotherapy is another treatment option, but it’s less commonly used for salivary gland cancer due to its limited effectiveness against this type of tumor. However, in cases where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, chemotherapy may be considered to slow the progression of the disease.

Post-treatment Care and Considerations

After treatment, regular follow-up visits with your vet will be needed to monitor your dog’s recovery and check for any signs of recurrence. Your pet may need pain management and supportive care, including a balanced diet and plenty of rest, to help them recover from the treatment.

In addition, adjustments may need to be made to your dog’s lifestyle. This could include diet, exercise, and environmental changes to promote healing and well-being. Your vet will guide you through this process and provide advice tailored to your dog’s needs.

It’s important to remember that each dog’s journey with cancer is unique. Some dogs recover fully and live out their lives with minimal impact, while others may require ongoing management. Your vet is the best resource for understanding what to expect and how to support your dog throughout their recovery.

Prevention and Early Detection of Salivary Gland Cancer in Dogs

Although there is no specific way to prevent salivary gland cancer in dogs, you can reduce your dog’s risk and promote early detection. Regular vet check-ups, a balanced diet, and a healthy lifestyle can all contribute to your dog’s overall health and well-being.

Familiarizing yourself with your dog’s normal behavior and appearance is essential. Any changes, such as unexplained weight loss, changes in appetite, or new lumps or swellings, should be reported to your vet immediately. Early detection improves the chances of successful treatment and can significantly impact your dog’s prognosis.

Remember, prevention is always better than cure. Although we cannot eliminate the risk of salivary gland cancer, we can be vigilant, proactive, and attentive to our dog’s health, thus ensuring any potential issues are addressed promptly.

Living with a Dog Diagnosed with Salivary Gland Cancer

A cancer diagnosis can be daunting and emotionally challenging for you and your dog. However, it’s important to remember that many dogs with salivary gland cancer live fulfilling lives with the correct treatment and care.

Your role as the caregiver will involve monitoring your dog’s health closely, administering medication as prescribed, and providing a loving, comfortable environment. Mental stimulation and gentle exercise can also help maintain your dog’s spirit during this challenging time.

Support is available for owners dealing with a pet’s cancer diagnosis. Contact support groups, counseling services, or online communities for advice and emotional support. Remember, you are not alone in this journey.


Understanding salivary gland cancer in dogs can be a complex and overwhelming task, but it is crucial to ensuring our canine companions live healthy, happy lives. Early detection and timely treatment can significantly affect the prognosis of a dog diagnosed with this disease.

As dog owners, our role is to stay informed, be observant, and act promptly when we notice any changes in our pet’s health. With the right knowledge and tools, we can navigate the challenges of this disease and provide our furry friends with the care and support they need.

Remember, every dog’s journey with cancer is unique, and so is their road to recovery. With love, care, and the proper medical support, our dogs can continue to live joyful lives, their tails wagging in the face of adversity.


What is salivary gland cancer in dogs?

Salivary gland cancer in dogs is a rare malignant tumor originating from the salivary glands, which produce saliva. These tumors can affect various parts of a dog’s oral cavity and can vary in aggressiveness.

What are the common signs of salivary gland cancer in dogs?

Watch out for symptoms like facial swelling, difficulty eating or swallowing, bad breath, drooling, and a mass or lump in the mouth or neck area. These signs can indicate the possibility of salivary gland cancer.

Are particular dog breeds more prone to salivary gland cancer?

Certain breeds, such as Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, and Dachshunds, appear more predisposed to salivary gland cancer. However, the condition can affect dogs of any breed and age.

How is salivary gland cancer diagnosed in dogs?

Diagnosis typically involves a combination of physical examination, imaging techniques like X-rays or ultrasounds, fine needle aspiration or biopsy of the tumor, and possibly additional tests like CT scans to determine the extent of cancer.

What are the treatment options for salivary gland cancer in dogs?

Treatment options may include surgical removal of the tumor, radiation therapy, and sometimes chemotherapy. The specific approach depends on factors like the tumor’s size, location, and whether it has spread. Early detection and a tailored treatment plan offer the best chances of success.

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