Oral Swellings in Cats

What causes oral swellings in cats?

Oral swellings are never normal in a cat’s mouth. Oral swellings occur from diseases such as local trauma, infection, fluid accumulation and cancer.

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Left: Benign tumor surrounding upper cheek teeth. Right: Swelling due to trauma from the upper cheek tooth.

What to do if you see a swelling in your cat’s mouth? 

Book an appointment to have your veterinarian examine the swelling.  Some swellings can be painful to touch, so to protect yourself from being bitten, do not touch the swelling.


What will the veterinarian do?

The veterinarian first needs to determine the cause of the swelling.  Unless the cause is obvious from a visual exam, testing usually includes dental x-rays and cell sampling.

To sample the cells, the cat will be placed under general anesthesia, and a fine needle is placed within the swelling. The sample is analyzed in minutes to determine if the fluid is cystic, infection, or cancer.


How are oral swellings treated?

If the swelling is due to a cyst caused by an unerupted tooth, surgery is performed to remove the tooth and cyst wall; this should cure the problem. If the veterinarian notices that a tooth around the swelling is fractured with the nerve exposed, extracting the tooth or performing root canal therapy will usually take care of the swelling.



Before: Facial and eye swelling due to infection from retained tooth roots (left); after: Swelling resolved following surgery (right).

Will veterinary care cure the swelling in my cat’s mouth? 

In cases of cysts, trauma, and infection, the swelling will usually be cured with veterinary help.  In cases of cancer, oral surgery and aftercare can be used to help.


This client information sheet is based on material written by: Jan Bellows, DVM, Dipl. AVDC, ABVP

© Copyright 2014 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

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