So What is Epulis in Labrador Retrievers?
Epulis, meaning “gum boil”, is a condition where massed benign tumors develop on a dog’s gums. Epulid is the medical term you might hear from your vet. These tumors develop early and appear as small masses growing from the gum. Epulis can displace the tooth and its surrounding tissue, causing pain and discomfort. You can even see some growths engrossing the dogs entire tooth. You may even notice tooth decay because of Epulis. Epulides stick to the bones and can even embed themselves inside the jaw. To identify Epulis in your dog, look for smooth bumps along the gums or soft tissue starting to encroach upon the tooth itself. Some might cause an asymmetry on the dogs face visible outside the mouth. Even though these tumors do not advance rapidly they are some of the most common oral tumors that develop in dogs. Labrador Retrievers are a breed that get this condition, so owners should be aware of the signs and symptoms.
Epulides contain three groups categorized according to tissue of origin. The first and most common type of Epulid is the fibromatous type. These tumors are non-ulcerative, meaning the bumps do not invade the bone and comprise of fibrous tissue. The second type of epuid is ossifying, where pedunculated tumors are non-ulcerative. These are less common, and have the stalk-like formation that anchors itself onto the bone. This epulid contains fibrous and bone tissue. However, it does not cause any degradation of the jaw bone. The third type is acanthomatous, where the tumors are aggressive and invasive. This type of tumor is the most serious and lethal. Because this type of epulid is a cancer, it will most likely grow back even after surgery and radiation treatment. The bone marrow will house the cancer tissue indefinitely. This type is most common on the front of the lower jaw. Early signs are typically not visible outside of the mouth, so check your dog’s gums often. If you suspect that your dog has any of these Epulide please contact your veterinarian immediately, it might save your dogs life.
Causes of Epulis in Labrador Retrievers
There is nothing that vets have found that correlates with Epulis in dogs. They have suspicions about environmental or breeding factors. Some dogs might be genetically susceptible to this cancer if breed poorly or exposed to harmful environments early on in life. There is no chance that a dog will develop epulis based on their gender. However, they are more likely to develop the cancer as they get older. As cells get older they tend to develop maladies like epulis, benign or not. We do know that the epulid originally forms from residual developmental cells residing in the periodontal ligament (jaw), and all involved periodontal structures must be surgically removed to affect a cure.
Symptoms of Epulis in Labrador Retrievers
Labradors suffering from Epulis can show signs of excessive salivation, bad breath even after proper dental hygiene, and trouble eating. You may notice blood coming from the dog’s mouth after eating. The dog is likely to experience significant weight loss and deformity in the upper and lower jaws if left untreated. They could seem uninterested in food or playing with chew toys because of their jaw. However, some animals might constantly chew on the toy to relieve some pain in their tooth or jaw. A common sign is if they have an asymmetrical jaw or they cant close their jaw all the way because of displacement. If you are familiar with where the lymph nodes are on your dog, check them. Enlarged lymph nodes always mean some sort of infection, especially in proximity to the enlargement.
Diagnosis of Epulis
Veterinarians will use what’s called a tier system of diagnosis. It uses the least invasive and inexpensive procedures first. These tests include a CDC and a urinalysis. Then the vet determines if more tests are indeed necessary. Most medical professionals try to rule out the Epulis condition this way because its cheap and accurate. If the urinalysis does come back with a sign that Epulis is present, more invasive procedures follow.
After initial tests come back positive, the vet will conduct an inspection of the jaw and teeth. This is necessary to determine the extent of the destruction in the oral tissues in the gums and teeth of the dog. Then the veterinarian can take accurate steps to see what type of epulid it is and to what kind of surgery needs to be done on the growth. Further and more invasive tests include: radio-graphic examination, CT scan and biopsy. Lethal tumors could go untreated if a full examination is not conducted on the jaw of the Labrador. Usually the vet will take a biopsy, but for some animals the growth is too small or the equipment wont fit in the mouth cavity to get the sample. Once the vet determines type of epulid then they proceed with treatment.
Treatment of Epulis in Labrador Retrievers
Epulis is treatable to an extent. The most common and effective treatment is removal of epulid tissue through surgery. There are times when a surgery is not an option because of the size or damage of jaw bone to the animal. Surgery is usually done for the tumors that do not revive themselves after surgery. These are the fibromatous and ossifying epulides. There may also be partial mandibulectomy, done by removing part of the lower jaw. A maxillectomy or the removal of the upper jaw is also possible. These are for cases when the animal has one large growth that has embedded itself within the jaw bone. If the vet determines the dog is inoperable, he may recommend radiation therapy for your loved pet. Once the vet has complete the epulis surgery or treatment, the dog will need supportive care. You may enroll the pet in therapy for their jaw, and buy soft foods or make your own for post-surgery recovery.
Living with Labradors
Labradors diagnosed with epulis are scheduled to return for follow-ups regularly. There are several things the vet needs to examine and determine if the animal needs more medicine. They will examine the head, jaw and neck for any post-surgery complications. Epulis is curable, especially if the type of epulid is not cancerous and caught early. If surgery involved removing epulid tissue from bone, there is a higher chance of recurrence. The bone marrow may still contain epulid cells and regrow after a few years. If you have a lab who has had this surgery before, it’s important to keep an eye on their jaw even after a clean bill of health. There is always a chance that the growth will return and need more treatment in the future.
Prevention of Epulis in Labrador Retrievers
Labradors are amazing animals and deserve your care and vigilance against these kinds of tumors. Unfortunately there are no measures to take to prevent this from happening to your animal besides early detection. Vet’s recommend checking your dogs mouth at least once a month or while brushing their teeth. Make sure you are observing any discoloration or displacement of teeth. Making regular check ups with a vet can reduce the chances of a more dangerous surgery and longer recovery time.