Most animals are discharged 2-5 days after surgery, depending on their level of surgery, comfort and ability to eat soft food. They are usually returned for recheck and incision check 10-14 days after surgery. Pain can be well-controlled with owner-administered medications.
Restrictions following surgery usually are:
- use a restrictive collar for 10–14 days after surgery to prevent the natural tendency of dogs to paw and scratch at a wound. This can cause breakdown of the wound and infection.
- limited and restricted activity is indicated for about two weeks to allow recovery and incision healing
- soft canned food, or water-soaked kibble for 2–3 weeks after surgery. A feeding tube may also be used depending on the extent of surgery in dogs, or in cats (Figure 6)
- no chew toys, raw hide or ball playing for 2–4 weeks after surgery
Postoperative complications can include:
- incision breakdown is common and may require additional minor procedures or may be left to heal on its own depending on the size of the defect and location
- bleeding from the nose for a few days is common after maxillectomy procedures
- increased salivation may be temporary after surgery, but persists in some cases
- swelling under the tongue (Figure 7)
- mandibular drift- lower jaws not lining up well
- difficulty eating, although this usually resolves within a couple weeks if not sooner. The vast majority of animals eat within 1-2 days of surgery
- recurrence of the tumor
The prognosis for cats and dogs with oral tumors is dependent on the type of tumor and sometimes the location of the tumor, size of the mass, success of surgery, and presence of metastatic disease. Tumors located in the front of the oral cavity are usually detected at an earlier stage and are more likely to be completely removed with surgery.
Fibrosarcoma continues to have a high local recurrence rate and needs to be addressed with wider resections or other adjuvant therapies, such as postoperative radiation. On the other hand, surgery and/or radiation therapy is successful in controlling malignant melanoma locally in 75% of cases, but metastatic disease requires more effective adjuvant therapy, such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy.
Surgery plays a pivotal role in the management of most oral tumors and advice from an ACVS board-certified surgeon is recommended for all cats and dogs with an oral mass. While resection of various segments of bone from the skull can be a daunting prospect for owners, the vast majority of dogs have minimal cosmetic and functional consequences as a result of these surgeries.