What is a salivary mucocele in dogs and cats?
A salivary mucocele in dogs and cats, also known as sialocele or salivary gland molecule, is swelling in the mouth caused by saliva leaking from the salivary glands or ducts and collecting in the soft tissue around them.
It’s most likely to occur in the mandibular gland, which is found below the jaw, and the sublingual gland, which is found underneath the tongue. You’ll see swelling under the skin and on the bottom of your pet’s mouth.
It can affect all dog breeds, but Poodles, German Shepherds, Australian Silky Terriers and Dachshunds are most susceptible. It can occur at any age and at any time and it can also occasionally affect cats, and is the most common salivary gland disease for both species.
While salivary mucoceles usually have no known cause, there are certain instances that can lead to their formation, including:
Ultimately, salivary mucoceles are the result of damage to the salivary glands or ducts. Once this damage occurs, the saliva that leaks into the soft tissues surrounding the glands accumulates, and triggers an inflammatory reaction.
This results in the swelling that’s characteristic of salivary mucoceles as the body works to contain the saliva by forming a layer of tissue around it. It’s this tissue that is classified as the salivary mucocele.
Salivary mucocele symptoms in dogs and cats
The typical symptom of salivary mucoceles is an unstable swelling in your pet’s neck or mouth. Painless and usually soft, they tend not to impact your pet too much unless they grow large. If this happens, it can then result in symptoms such as:
Where the salivary mucocele forms under the tongue (known as a ranula), it has the appearance of a bulge on the bottom of your pet’s mouth. If it grows large enough, you may be able to see it alongside the tongue, and your pet may experience:
Pharyngeal salivary mucoceles are difficult to see, but you are likely to notice that your pet is:
These symptoms must be assessed immediately by your vet so as to limit your pet’s distress and reduce the chance of death from severe respiratory distress.
Though uncommon, you may also notice a swelling below your pet’s eye. This is most likely a zygomatic salivary mucocele, and it can cause your pet’s eye to bulge or appear larger than the unaffected eye. You might also see evidence of it on the roof of your pet’s mouth.
Your vet will carry out a thorough physical examination of your pet, which will involve looking in its mouth, and ask about its medical history.
They may also need to carry out veterinary diagnostic imaging, such as a CT scan to determine where the swelling is located. Your pet will be sedated for this procedure.
This thorough examination is key, as there are other conditions that can cause swelling in the neck and mouth, including:
In order to rule these conditions out, the most accurate diagnosis comes from aspirating the swelling or draining the fluid. Depending on the type of fluid that comes out, your vet will be able to determine the cause of the swelling. It’s most likely to be a salivary mucocele if the fluid is:
This fluid can then be examined under a microscope, and assessed for bacteria or an elevated white blood count that would indicate an abscess or infection (known as sialadenitis).
If no bacteria is present, the fluid is determined to be saliva, and a positive diagnosis of a salivary mucocele in cats and dogs can be made.
If the swelling is hard or painful, your vet may suspect cancer. In which case, they will carry out an x-ray of the area to determine if that is the case. Your pet will be sedated for these procedures, so as to limit the amount of stress they may experience.
During the initial consultation we will always give the client an estimate of the likely costs of investigation/treatment for their pet and we will try to make this as accurate as possible. Please remember however that this is only an estimate and whilst we will do our best to keep the client informed of any major additional charges the final costs can vary if the pet’s condition proves to be more complex than anticipated.
How much does it cost to remove a salivary gland in dogs?
The cost of sialoadenectomy typically ranges from $250 to $1,000.
How much does salivary mucocele surgery cost for dogs?
Can a dog live without salivary glands?
How much does it cost to remove a salivary gland?