As dogs get older, some are prone to developing tumors and/or growths in the oral cavity. Probably the most common type of growths seen are known as epuli, which are most commonly spongy-looking or cauliflower-like growths that are benign in most cases. They typically appear along the gum line, and in some cases pets may have multiple epuli develop in the oral cavity. While they may occur in any breed, some breeds such as golden retrievers and boxers seem to be more predisposed. In most cases, the appearance of a simple epulis does not cause any discomfort to most pets; however, if they grow to a certain size, they may interfere with eating and/or drinking, as well as causing secondary bacterial infections.
In most cases, epuli do not spread to other areas of the body. While many veterinarians may attempt to diagnose an epulis by clinical appearance, excisional biopsy and/or removal is usually necessary to confirm the diagnoses, and to specify what type of epulis is present, which in turn, may dictate future behavior and/or spread of the growth. Many times we will simply monitor these lesions; however, while surgical removal is usually curative, in other cases local radiation and/or chemotherapy may also be used in treatment in those rare malignant ones.
Some epuli also may mimic other types of growths in the mouths of dogs, including malignant tumors such as squamous cell carcinomas, fibrosarcomas, and malignant melanomas. These tumors may be much more biologically aggressive in terms of spread, which is why if a guardian and/or veterinarian are in doubt, surgical biopsy is always recommended for an accurate diagnosis of growths in the mouth.