Epulides in Dogs:
What is This Thing in my Dog’s Mouth?
Dogs can develop odd growths on any part of their bodies, and this includes the mouth. Epulides are (usually) benign, rather common growths that you can find in your dog’s mouth. Despite this, the growths can still create many problems for your dog, and it is important to take your pet to see a vet if you discover an abnormality of any sort in his mouth.
What Dogs are Most Likely to Get These?
Older dogs over the age of seven are also more prone to developing these as opposed to younger dogs. These tumors form in response to gum inflammation and trauma, which would lead one to believe that dogs with poor oral hygiene are affected more. Genetic predisposition can also play a large roll, as brachycephalic breeds are more likely to develop these, especially boxers. The shape of a brachycephalic dog’s jaw can allow for trauma to the gum to occur from misaligned teeth, and this is a likely cause of the increased incidence of theses breeds. A dog may develop only one or many of these tumors.
It is important to note that while brachycephalic dogs may be more likely to develop these, epulides can pop up in any dog’s mouth. My dog developed one, and she is not brachycephalic, and she has received good dental care since puppyhood.
Signs and Symptoms of Epulides:
The most obvious sign of an epulide is seeing one in the dog’s mouth. These tumors can cause many other signs though, including facial deformation, decrease in activity, bad breath, drooling, enlargement of the lymph nodes, bleeding from the mouth, difficulty eating, etc. The first sign my dog exhibited was repeatedly opening and closing her mouth as if she had something stuck to a tooth, but I didn’t discover it until she yawned one day when I was petting her.
When examining a dog with an epulis, the veterinarian will try to look at and may feel the growth. X-rays are helpful to see how large the tumor is and will also help the vet determine what kind of mass is present, but the only way to be sure of the type of growth is with biopsy.
Types of Epulides:
There are three types of Epulides that a dog may develop, and the only way to be sure what type an affected dog has is through biopsy.
Fibromatous epulis: This type of epulis often resembles a mushroom, as is grows as a tumor on a stalk. It can also be seen without a stalk. (www.veterinarypartner.com)
Peripheral odontogenic fibroma: These are very similar to fibromatous epulides, but these tumors have in osteoid matrix. While these can be more attached to the underlying bone, they normally don’t invade the bone of the dog’s jaw. (www.veterinarypartner.com)
Acanthomatous ameloblastoma: These are technically benign growths yet they are often described as have behaving “cancer-like.” This is because these tumors will invade the bone in the dog’s jaw. While it will not spread throughout the dog’s body, this invasion of the surrounding bone can be very damaging. While fibromatous epulides and peripheral odontogenic fibromas normally have smooth surfaces, acanthomatous ameloblastomas may be rougher in appearance and are often ulcerated. (www.veterinarypartner.com)
Treatment for Epulides:
Treatment for epulides is surgical removal. It is better to remove these growths when they are small to avoid them causing undo discomfort to the dog. If the epulis is an acanthomatous ameloblastoma, part of the surrounding jaw may also need to be removed if the growth has invaded the bone. Sometimes radiation is done if the mass can’t be removed, but this is not the treatment of choice.
Thankfully, tumors don’t usually come back as long as the entire tumor has been successfully removed.
If you are very lucky, your dog may take care of the problem herself. Raina had an appointment to surgically remove her tumor, but about a week before her appointment, I noticed the tumor was no longer in her mouth. She must have done some home surgery and bit it off herself. I took her to the vet just to make sure it was completely gone, and Raina was able to skip that surgery!
Certain types of dogs are more likely to develop epulides than others, but any dog can end up with one. While only one of the three varieties of this tumor is likely to invade the surrounding bone, all of these tumors should be removed if possible so they can be correctly diagnosed. Prompt removal also prevents an epulis from becoming so large that it causes the dog unnecessary stress and discomfort, as even a small one can be very bothersome to a dog and large ones can interfere with eating, drinking, and stop the dog from closing his mouth.
Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook, 4th Edition