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Soft-Tissue Trauma of the Mouth in Small Animals


Alexander M. Reiter

, Dipl. Tzt., DEVDC, DAVDC, Department of Clinical Sciences & Advanced Medicine, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

Reviewed/Revised May 2014 | Modified Nov 2022

Chewing Lesions

A proliferative, verrucous lesion along the bite-plane of the cheek or sublingual region may result from self-trauma when the tissue becomes entrapped between the teeth during chewing. Surgical removal of the excess tissue prevents further trauma.

Mouth Burns

Thermal, chemical, or electric burns involving the mouth are not uncommon. The animal should be evaluated and treated for systemic involvement, which may be life-threatening (neurogenic pulmonary edema). The tongue, lips, cheeks, labial and buccal mucosa, and palate are frequently involved with electric burns. The injuries may be mild with only temporary discomfort, or they may be destructive with loss of tissue, scar formation, and subsequent deformity or tissue deficits. Chewing on an electric cord is most frequently a problem in kittens, puppies, and pet rabbits. These animals often have a linear scar across the dorsum of the tongue, outlining the path of the electric cord. One or both lip commisures may have a scar or wound, and the adjacent carnassial teeth may be discolored and eventually require endodontic treatment.

The owner may have observed the incident, but more commonly it occurs in the owner’s absence. The animal hesitates to eat or drink, drools, and resents handling of its mouth or face. If tissue destruction is marked, ulcerative or gangrenous stomatitis can develop, with secondary bacterial infections. If recent contact with a corrosive alkaline chemical has occurred, the mouth should be flushed with mild solutions of vinegar or citrus juice; if the chemical was acidic, a solution of sodium bicarbonate should be used. Copious flushing of the mouth with water helps remove some of the chemical substances. More commonly, the animal is seen too long after the exposure for neutralization to be effective. The hair should be clipped and/or washed if it is suspected to be a continued source of a chemical that caused the caustic mucosal lesions.

Animals that have inflamed oral mucosa without tissue defects require no specific supportive treatment other than a soft or liquid diet until the lesion has healed. If tissue damage is extensive, treatment includes lavage with dilute chlorhexidine solution and conservative tissue debridement. The risk of secondary infection should be minimized with systemic antibiotic therapy for several days.

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