There are three main types of tumours found in a dog’s gum: fibromatous epulis, ossifying epulis and acanthomatous epulis, according to veterinarian Daniel A. Degner. Unlike tumours found in other parts of the mouth, these gum tumours are benign, but some may transform into malignant tumours, veterinarian Holly Nash wrote. Epulides do not spread to other parts of the body, Degner stated.
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While the cause of epulides is unknown, there are factors that put certain dogs at risk. Boxers are more likely to develop an epulis than other breeds. Age is also a factor, with the majority of epiludes found in dogs 6 years and older, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual.
Though all three varieties of epulides affect the dog’s gums, each has its own identifying characteristics. The fibromatous epulis and ossifying epulis are smooth and pink and do not have raw surfaces. The acanthomatous epulis can be smooth or ulcerated and generally affects the lower front gum. This is the most invasive type of epulis, as it originates in the ligament, which holds the tooth root in the jaw bone. A veterinarian can diagnose the epulis with a biopsy.
As well as the presence of a tumour, other symptoms of epiludes appear as the tumour grows. These symptoms include drooling, loss of appetite or difficulty eating, bad breath, bleeding and breathing difficulties. As the epulis grows, it often pushes the adjacent teeth back, resulting in misalignment.
The usual way to treat an epulis is by surgical removal. With a fibromatous epulis, surgery is usually the only treatment needed. An ossifying epulis may require the removal of part of the underlying bone, as well as the tumour, and, following removal, the wound is treated with cryosurgery, involving three cycles of freezing. An acanthomatous epulis also requires partial removal of the bone, along with the tumour, and radiation is often used following the surgery.
Removal cures the majority of fibromatous epulis and ossifying epulis cases. Acanthomatous epulis, as a more invasive tumour, has a 95 per cent chance of cure after removal. Even though veterinarians use radiation to help cure small acanthomatous epulis, it can, in rare cases, result in the tumour becoming cancerous, according to Nash.
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