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Epulis - A Common Growth in Dog Mouths

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Fibrous epulis surrounding the lower right canine tooth in a Boxer dog - Wikimedia/Joel Mills

Fibrous epulis surrounding the lower right canine tooth in a Boxer dog

Wikimedia/Joel Mills
Question: Epulis - A Common Growth in Dog Mouths
Viewer question: My Labrador had a pink growth on the inside of her mouth. The vet called it an epulis and removed it. He said it was not dangerous, removed it, but said it will probably come back. Now it looks like its getting bigger again. How can it be taken care of so that it will not persist to grow back?
Answer: Epulis is a common tumor in dogs' mouths, occurring along the gum line. The bad news is that they are common types of tumors that tend to recur. The good news is that they are benign; they do not spread to other areas of the body.

Daily brushing of your dog's teeth keep tartar and plaque under control and allow for frequent observations and monitoring of oral and dental health. As soon as any lumps, odor, or changes in color in the gums or mouth are noted, a visit to the veterinarian is in order.

Related: Common Signs of Cancer in Dogs

Epulis typically smooth (not ulcerated), pink, and occurs on the gums. Surgical removal is best, and easiest, when the lump is small. Most veterinarians can identify epulis in the exam room, but a biopsy is always recommended to rule out other types of cancerous growths.

There are three different types of epulis, and a biopsy will help determine the specific type. This is important because treatment options vary with the type of epulis or other type of oral tumor.

Types of Epulis

1. Fibromatous epulis - Smooth, not ulcerated. This epulis type originates from the fibrous connective tissue. Surgical removal is the recommended treatment.

2. Ossifying epulis - Smooth, not ulcerated. This epulis type originates from fibrous and bone tissues, and could become malignant (osteosarcoma). Surgical removal is the recommended treatment, but may be difficult to completely remove. Freezing (cryosurgery) may be necessary for some cases.

3. Acanthomatous epulis - Smooth or ulcerated surface. This epulis type originates from the periodontal ligament, the tissue that holds the tooth in the jaw. While 'benign,' this form of epulis is locally aggressive and invasive into the surrounding gum tissue and underlying bone. It may destroy the bone structure. Surgical removal is recommended, and some cases may require partial mandibulectomy (removal of lower jaw) or maxillectomy (removal of upper jaw). Radiation is another treatment option for selected cases when the lesion is small.

Post Surgery Care

Each case varies greatly regarding post-operative care. For small epulis tumors, your dog will likely resume normal appetite and attitude quickly. For more extensive surgeries, your veterinarian will prescribe pain medication, dietary recommendations and antibiotics for your dog as needed.
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