Epulis – Mouth, Oral Tumor in Dogs

Dog owners don’t have to be health specialists to know when something is wrong with their pets. Ensuring proper care for your dog is essential for the well-being of the animal however this does not eliminate the possibility of the dog developing various diseases and illnesses. This is why owners have to pay attention to the smallest signs of health-related irregularities, so that the dog may receive the care and attention it needs and adequate treatment if necessary.

The apparition of tumors is a sad reality in a dog’s life, but whereas some are of extreme severity, others are benign and can be easily got rid of when depicted in the early stages and when proper treatment is ensured. One such benign tumor is known as epulis, and it is in fact the most common oral tumor of this kind that appears in dogs.

Epulis – Overview

Epulis which is literally translated as “gum boil”, is a tumor located in the gum tissue near the canine’s teeth. It originates in the tissue that connects the teeth to the bone of the jaw. Epulis, with the plural form epulides, is a tumor that doesn’t spread to other parts of the body, and is known as having three forms: Fibromatous epulis, Ossifying epulis and Acanthomatous epulis.

• Fibromatous epulis is the name for a tumor that is usually located in the margin of the gums. The surface of this particular kind of tumor is pink in color, has a smooth texture and does not involve the presence of ulcerations. A dog diagnosed with Fibromatous epulis can get rid of the tumor through surgical removal procedures.

• Ossifying epulis is a more severe tumor that is more difficult to cure just by cutting the tumorous tissue away. This tumor is smooth and does not cause ulcerations in the tissue. A dog affected by this type of epulis may have to undertake more radical surgery that requires the removal of part of the bone. After the tumorous mass is removed, the area must be treated with three cycles of freezing (cryosurgery).

• Acanthomatous epulis, unlike the other epulides, is a tumor that may present an ulcerated surface and it often times affects the front part of the lower jaw. This tumor originates in the periodontal ligament, which is the one holding the tooth deeply rooted into the bone. This epulis is a highly invasive one, therefore it is perceived as being a type of cancer. The removal of the affected area needs to involve the removal of a portion of the underlying bone. The good news about this tumor is the fact that, despite its severity, surgical procedures are 95% effective. Acanthomatous epulis can be treated through radiation if the tumorous mass is small in size.

Causes of Epulis

Unfortunately, no one knows why dogs develop epulides. Scientists however have discovered that epulides occur more commonly in Boxers and older dogs. In addition, the tumor affects both sexes equally.

Signs and Symptoms Associated With Epulis

The first sign of an epulis is oftentimes a firm growth between the dog’s teeth. The owner of an affected dog will notice that the epulis has the same color as the gum tissue, that it is smooth in surface and may be attached to the gum through a peduncle.

A growing epulis will cause discomfort to the dog; he may begin to drool, have trouble breathing, lose his appetite or have difficulty eating. He might also bleed from the area affected by the tumor. An epulis can also interfere with the normal alignment of the dog’s teeth, causing problems to the teeth that are in proximity of the tumorous growth. An epulis can push apart or misalign the dog’s teeth, and there is often more than one tumor in his mouth.

When trying to determine the existence of epulides, the owner must take into account the following symptoms which may be associated with the presence of epulis: excessive salivation, halitosis/bad breath, trouble eating, appetite loss, weight loss, oral bleeding, enlargement of the lymph nodes situated in the neck as well as an asymmetric upper or lower jaw.

Diagnosis of Epulis

Prior to making an accurate diagnosis, the veterinarian needs to acquire the dog’s complete medical history. He will also conduct a proper oral examination and, under the suspicion of an epulis, he will prompt the owner to subject the dog to further medical tests. These include X-rays and a biopsy to confirm the existence of the tumor and to assess the type of the epulis. The dog may not suffer from epulis, yet he might still suffer from an oral tumor as there are several oral tumors which are known to occur in dogs. These include the malignant tumor called squamous cell carcinoma, and other tumors which are benign and include lipomas, fibromas and histiocytomas.

The investigations in the case of a dog suspected of epulis also include taking a sample of the tumor which is cut down to the bone and sent off to a laboratory for analysis. To do this, the specialist requires the dog to be anesthetized.

Treatment for Epulis

A dog affected by either form of epulis has to have the tumor removed through surgery. Although radiation can be used to treat some small-sized tumors, surgery is usually necessary for eliminating the tumorous growth. During surgery, the affected part is removed along with a large portion of the healthy tissue. This portion might also include some bone tissue and removal is considered a must in order to avoid the regrowth of the tumor over the course of time. Other parts that need to be removed during surgery are the teeth next to the epulis which are often times affected by the tumorous mass.

In the case of Acanthomatous epulis, if the specialist determines that the tumor is aggressive, the surgical procedures will have to include the removal of half the dog’s upper or lower jaw. Also, radiotherapy is highly advisable for ensuring that the epulis does not reappear. To prevent the epulis from expanding in the mouth, the specialist will also need to introduce chemotherapeutic agents into the area affected by the tumorous mass to prevent the epulis from expanding.

Home Care

There are no known methods of preventing the development of epulides. If an owner’s dog was affected by epulis, the person needs to perform routine check-ups as recommended by the vet in order to monitor the dog for potential recurrence of the tumor. Also, specific care and diet instructions will be given to the owner to ensure the well-being of his pet after surgery. A soft diet will be necessary as may special oral rinses which are known to be of benefit in some dogs.


The prognosis in the case of a dog with epulis is based upon the type, location and size of the tumor, as well as the possibility of removal. As long as the tumor is small in size and all of it is removed, the prognosis for the dog is positive, but if the tumor is quite large, then there are increased chances of recurrences or complications.

The prognosis in the case of a dog affected by Acanthomatous epulis is different however since this kind of tumor is much more difficult to be completely removed. Also, there have been cases in which the radiation therapy turned the tumor from a benign mass to a malign one.

Comments 7
  1. Excellent review, thanks for taking the time and effort to research and explain this topic of animal medicine.

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