Q: While feeding my eight-year-old orange tabby cat, I noticed a black spot on his tongue that was not there previously. Is this something that I should be concerned about?
A: Firstly, good on you for noticing the black spot on your tabby’s tongue! Most feline owners seldom notice changes within the oral cavity as cats are less tolerant of teeth brushing as compared to dogs, and the only time you can look into their mouth is either during feeding time, or when you catch them yawning.
Some cats do have pigments resembling black spots on their tongue–it is completely normal and especially common in tortoiseshell cats. If you have never noticed it before, the first thing you should do is observe if the black spot is raised above the surface of the rest of the tongue, or simply a pigmentation that is even with the tongue surface. In most cases, if the black spot is not raised, it is less likely to be a malignant tumour (synchronous with cancer). That being said, although it is rare, there is still a possibility that even-surfaced black pigments may be malignant. Likewise, senior cats may develop melanomas in the mouth, which often have a similar appearance.
While the visual appearance, size and location may give clues to its identity, a definitive diagnosis still requires a surgical biopsy. Before further and more invasive procedures are considered, I would recommend taking your orange tabby to your regular veterinarian for an oral examination. Your veterinarian would then be able to assess him and provide you with the possible treatment options available following the diagnosis. I definitely do not recommend the “wait and see” approach as a black spot could be potentially be malignant. More importantly, the key to the treatment of any medical issues is always early detection.
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