SIALOCELE (Also called : Salivary mucocele, ranula, salivary "cyst", honey "cyst")

Note for Pet Owners:

This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

Topics on this Page:

A sialocele is an accumulation of saliva surrounded by tissue reaction to the saliva. The result is a fluid filled sac which can occur at several sites :

  • Under the tongue (a ranula)
  • In the neck region (cervical)
  • Adjacent to the pharynx (pharyngeal)

The wall of the sac consists of inflammatory granulation tissue with inflammatory cells. It does not secrete saliva, so the term "cyst" is not an accurate description to use.

Proposed causes for these accumulations of saliva outside the normal salivary gland are :

  • Blockage of the local salivary duct which carries saliva away from the gland.Sometimes mineral material (sialoliths) forms in the duct - consisting of magnesium or calcium carbonate, or calcium phosphate.
  • Trauma
  • Some families are affected, in which case there could be an hereditary abnormality
  • Migration of grass seeds through the sublingual papilla (opening of the salivary gland) has also been reported as a cause

In dogs they almost always arise from the sublingual salivary glands. 

Breed Occurrence
The German Shepherd Dog, Greyhound, and Poodle are reported to have a prevalence for sialocele development. Young male dogs aged 2-4 years are most often affected.

Cats are rarely affected.

A slow developing soft to firm fluid filled swelling under the tongue, the neck or the pharyngeal region. It is not usually painful. Sometimes the swelling increases during eating and decreases in size when salivary secretion decreases. If the swelling is very large it may interfere with eating and swallowing, or affect breathing if they compress the pharyngeal region.


If untreated the wall of chronic sialoceles can become mineralised, or undergo necrosis and slough into the cavity. 

If the sialocele has been drained by passing a needle into it under un-sterile conditions it can become infected and form an abscess.

Clinical signs and aspiration of saliva from the cavity. The fluid may be:

Sialography is useful in some cases to confirm the diagnosis.

The treatment of choice is surgical removal of the sublingual salivary glands - and for practical reasons because of it's close proximity, the mandibular salivary gland is removed at the same time. If possible the side of origin should be identified so that a unilateral procedure can be carried out. If the sialocele lies in the midline bilateral gland removal may be necessary.

The prognosis is good provided the origin of the saliva is removed. Recurrence will usually occur if the sac is removed without removing the secretory source of the saliva.

Long term problems


Updated October 2013