Tumors of the Gums (Epulis) in Cats

PetMD Editorial
February 05, 2010
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Epulis in Cats

Tumors or tumor-like masses on an animal's gums are referred to as epulides. They appear early on as masses sprouting from the gum, which seem to hang from a stalk, and often displace tooth structures as they expand. Most epulides stick to the bone, do not have a capsule, and have a smooth to slightly nodular surface. They do not spread but may deform the face.

Epulides are rare in cats, but occur most often in brachycephalic breeds.

Symptoms and Types

There are three categories of epulides: fibromatous, ossifying, and acanthomatous. Acanthomatous epuli, in particular, are highly invasive to the bone and are usually located on the front part of the lower jaw. On occasion your cat will display no visible outward signs. It is therefore important you look inside your cat's mouth if you suspect a problem. Symptoms associated with epulides include:

  • Excessive salivation
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Trouble eating
  • Blood from the mouth
  • Weight loss
  • Enlargement of the lymph nodes in the neck
  • Asymmetric upper or lower jaw

Causes

None identified.

Diagnosis

After you give a complete medical history for the animal to the veterinarian, he or she will conduct a thorough oral examination, which should reveal an epulide. If present, X-rays will be taken to classify the type of epulis and check the health of the teeth around the epulis. A section of the epulis must also be cut out, down to the bone, to be sent to the laboratory for analysis. This is best done while your cat is anesthetized.

Treatment

Your veterinarian will remove the epulis surgically while your pet is anesthetized. Any teeth that have been extensively damaged by the epulis will also be removed, and the tooth socket will be cleaned out with special dental instruments.

If the epulis is acanthomatous and is thought of as aggressive (they can be precancerous lesions), he or she may need to remove half of your pet’s lower or upper jaw, and administer radiotherapy to your pet to assure the epulis does not come back. He or she may also inject chemotherapeutic agents into the area of the epulis to prevent it from expanding.

Living and Management

Pets should return to the veterinarian one, two, three, six, nine, 12, 15, 18, and 24 months after treatment for thorough oral, head, and neck examinations. Periodic X-rays of the inside of your cat’s mouth should be taken, especially if the mass was diagnosed as an acanthomatous epulis, which may be a precancerous lesion.

Most epulides are cured if the edges of the surgically removed tumor was not cancerous (a laboratory will examine the tumor after your veterinarian has removed it). However, if your veterinarian had to cut into the bone to remove the tumor, the epulide will probably return.