Oral Melanoma in a Dog: Laney’s Battle With Oral Melanoma

Melanoma is the most common oral tumor in dogs. Male dogs, particularly certain breeds, are most susceptible to this type of cancer.

Common symptoms include:

  • bad breath
  • pain
  • facial swelling
  • excessive drooling
  • anorexia

Further information: Canine Oral Melanoma

Thank you, Lisa Freeman, for sharing Laney’s story.

Oral Melanoma in a Dog: Laney's Battle With Oral Melanoma

Laney’s story

Laney came to me through a friend who bred Pekingese. I had lost a 17-year-old dog earlier that year. My friend knew I had an empty place in my heart… so since she had three other Pekingese, she graciously gave me Laney.. and oh, did we bond on the very first day!

This little girl was my heart and soul. 

Each day was a joy–to wake up by being licked on the nose and then seeing that cute little face was knowing all she wanted is to be snuggled. What a gift she has been to me. She was the one constant in my life that kept me grounded.

A lump in Laney’s mouth

In January, I noticed a small lump on the upper side of Laney’s mouth. I took her to our vet. 

Laney was having little trouble eating. She also yawned a lot, like trying to stretch her jaws.

Diagnosis and surgery

The vet determined this could be cancer, so they opted to remove the mass. However, when they got into Laney’s mouth and saw where it was attached, they also noticed the deterioration of teeth and a little bone. So they took out 12 teeth.

The outcome looked reasonably good. Laney bounced back in a few short days. She started acting her old self again. Running and jumping and enjoying life…

Then I noticed that Laney’s eye was starting to bulge out and that she had started yawing again, only this time she was also tilting her head way over to the side.

The tumor returns

I checked Laney’s mouth, and the tumor had come back. 

So I asked for a referral and drove to yet another town the same day to see a second oncologist. She not only gave me hope, but she also worked up a plan of action.

I immediately took Laney to the vet again, who sent me to an oncologist in a different town, who basically gave Laney no chance of a future and said to take her home and make her comfortable. Not a chance!

So, a week later, Laney went back into surgery with a diagnosis of aggressive oral melanoma and right eye protrusion. 

We knew there was a secondary infection behind the eye. We thought that was why the eye was now starting to tilt and that the tumor was localized in the mouth. However, the surgeon called me once he got Laney under and explained her situation–the melanoma in the mouth had progressed behind the eye, and the eye was shot.

Poor prognosis

I thought my baby was going to go in and have a tumor removed from her mouth, but what the oncologist was telling me was that if she had any chance at all, they would have to do the radical surgery to take her right eye and also her right upper jaw bone.

I asked him to give me time to think. I needed to consider this choice… so… as nutty as it may sound, I closed my eyes, focused on Laney, and connected with her on a spiritual level, as you do in prayer, and I asked her what she wanted to do… and you know that little voice we all have in our head? Mine said she wanted to live.

So I called her surgeon back and asked a few more questions to get my mind wrapped around what was happening, and then I gave the go for the completion of the surgery. 


They kept Laney for five days because of the extent of the surgery. Each day someone from that animal hospital called me to tell me how amazing Laney was doing! But, unfortunately, with her being out of town and a 2-hour drive one way, I could not make that trip back and forth.. so I waited until the day I could bring Laney home.

I was mentally prepared for what I would see…

.. we are never as emotionally intense as we would like to be. However, I did not allow myself to pass on a sad emotion to Laney. 

Animals are so very energy sensitive… So I brought her home, knowing that she would be better every day but that now we were looking at costly chemo injections to rid her of all cancer.

The surgeon gave Laney a 98% clean margin but said a 2% dirty margin could be a problem. 

Related articles:
Bad Odor in Dogs: Why Is My Dog Stinky?

Further reading:
Canine Oral Melanoma

Categories: CancerConditionsOral melanoma

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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