Dental disease is not the only source of discomfort that can brew inside your dog’s mouth. If your dog’s mouth seems sensitive or painful, causing him to shy away from his kibble or decline gnawing sessions with his chew toys, there may be a small battle going on inside his mouth. The war is known as eosinophilic granuloma complex.
An eosinophil is a type of white blood cell that is produced in your dog’s bone marrow, and plays a role in your dog’s immune response. Once the eosinophils leave the bone marrow, they enter the bloodstream and travel to the body tissues. Working in tandem with your dog’s immune system, they are on constant intruder alert for invading parasitic organisms. When the eosinophils receive signals that an invasion has occurred, they respond by releasing chemicals to attack the offending culprit. This plan of defense can backfire when the eosinophils go after benign materials, such as dust or pollen, and set off inflammatory allergic symptoms, such as an eosinophilic granuloma, in your dog. A granuloma is a solid mass of inflammatory cells, including eosinophils, which have clumped together.
Eosinophilic granuloma complex is a collective group of allergy-driven skin diseases that can appear as eosinophilic granulomas, eosinophilic plaques and indolent ulcers. Eosinophilic granuloma complex is a hypersensitivity reaction that occurs in dogs, cats and horses. Any breed can develop eosinophilic granuloma complex, but Siberian huskies and Cavalier King Charles spaniels are particularly susceptible. Dogs who are genetically predisposed will develop the condition within the first two to three years of life. Eosinophilic granuloma typically occurs as nodules on the mucous membranes within the oral cavity. To a lesser extent, they can also appear on other parts of the body, including the lips, inner thighs and abdomen. These are also the classic locations where eosinophilic plaques form.
Eosinophlic granuloma complex often presents as oral lesions that are usually found on the tongue or palate and may appear ulcerated. These granulomas may appear as red, slightly raised lesions or as green-tinged nodules. Your veterinarian will visually inspect the nodule, and he may take an impression smear to look for eosinophils under a microscope. Other diagnostic tests that he may recommend include a culture to rule out further infection and a biopsy to rule out the presence of cancerous cells. Traditional treatment for an eosinophilic granuloma is a tapering dose of corticosteroids, such as prednisone. Most cases respond favorably to this course, but it is not uncommon for lesions to recur in the future.
Although eosinophilic granuloma complex is much more prevalent in cats, dogs can suffer from these lesions as well. When they occur in the mouth, they can cause pain and discomfort for your dog when he eats. Get your dog into the habit of having his teeth brushed at least three times a week. This routine will grant you the opportunity to inspect his gums and his tongue. Whenever you catch him in a yawn or witness him panting, take a quick gander at the roof of his mouth. A daily petting session and coat brushing will enable you to see and feel any nodules on his body. If you discover anything that you have never noticed before, either in his mouth or anyplace else on his body, bring him to your veterinarian for an evaluation before the problem festers any further.
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