Although they are tumors growing in a dog's mouth, epulis generally are benign. Usually found in senior dogs, epulis appear in three distinct types, although the outward symptoms are the same for all. These include bad breath, excessive salivation, difficulty eating and weight loss. Your dog's neck lymph nodes might swell. The size of the epuli varies, with much depending on whether it has invaded the bone. That can't be seen with the naked eye.
Your veterinarian diagnoses the epuli via a physical examination of your dog's mouth and by conducting X-rays of his head. Epulis grow on the gums, often sprouting off a stalk. From the X-ray, your vet can determine whether the epuli has become invasive, growing into your dog's bones. Treatment depends on the size and type of the epuli, but all involve surgical removal.
Fibromatous epulis usually develop at the gum margin. Generally pink and smooth, fibromatous epulis seldom bleed and ulcerate. This epuli generally appears near the canines or incisors and usually grows off a stalk. The least aggressive of all epulis, surgical removal usually takes care of the problem and this epuli doesn't grow back. Along with surgical removal, your vet will remove any teeth the fibromatous epuli has displaced and scrape out the tooth socket.
Also known as a peripheral odontogenic fibroma, the ossifying epuli resembles the fibromatous epuli. It differs from the fibromatous variety in that it has ventured into the bone and likely has displaced several teeth. Surgical removal is more difficult and extensive, usually involving removal of multiple teeth.
The most aggressive of epulis, the acanthomatous type also grows larger and can become quite invasive. Usually found in the front of the mouth, the rough textured acanthomatous epuli can grow large enough to involve removing half of the jaw for treatment. Unlike other epulis, the acanthomatous type often is cancerous or precancerous. After your dog recovers from the jaw surgery, he might undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatments. He must return to the vet for regular X-rays of his head and physical examinations. If the tumor metastasizes, it generally heads to the lungs and eventually kills your dog.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.