Epulis in Dogs
Epulides are tumors or tumor-like masses on an animal’s gums, which do not come from the teeth. They appear early on as small 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 the fourth most common oral tumor in dogs (rare in cats) and occur most often in brachycephalic breeds. Boxers tend to have a greater incidence of fibromatous epuli than other breeds of dog.
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 dog will display no visible outward signs. It is therefore important you look inside your pet'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
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 dog is anesthetized.
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 dog’s mouth should be taken, especially if the mass was diagnosed as an acanthomatous epulis.
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.