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Help! Where Did Brownie’s Teeth Go?

Image credit: Kristen Smith, Facebook Fan

Lumps and Bumps: Gingival Hyperplasia

Have your dog’s teeth disappeared behind a growing mass of tissue? Are lumpy masses in your dog’s mouth making it difficult for your pet to eat or play with chew toys?  These may be a sign of an underlying health condition known as gingival hyperplasia.

Dental tartar, trapped debris, and damaged or broken teeth lead to irritation of the gingival (i.e. “gum”) tissue surrounding the teeth. An excessive inflammatory response of the gingival can lead to a benign condition known as gingival hyperplasia, or gum tissue enlargement. Once inflamed, the gingival tissue becomes thickened permanently and continues to enlarge over time due to continued irritation. A self-perpetuated cycle occurs: the overgrown gingival tissue traps bacteria and debris between the excess gingival tissue and the teeth which leads to chronic irritation, infection, and inflammation.

In dog breeds that exhibit a tendency toward gingival hyperplasia (which includes boxers, bulldogs, and great danes) gingival tissue will likely need surgical correction to keep the mouth in top health. Routine dental care practices at home and regular veterinary exams for your pet can help detect oral abnormalities. Never assume an oral mass is benign – get an expert’s opinion. Early detection is the key for best outcome, and a biopsy of abnormal tissue is needed to confirm diagnosis; however, many vets may feel comfortable making a presumptive diagnosis based on appearance of tissue alone.  Successful treatment includes dental radiographs to assess underlying dental disease, surgical removal of excessive gingival tissue, and dental extractions as needed for unhealthy teeth. Teeth that remain are cleaned and polished.

In some pets, medication side-effects may include gingival hyperplasia – specifically medications that suppress immune system function. In these cases, gingival tissue will most likely return to normal once the medication is discontinued. Do not suddenly discontinue medications without first discussing with your veterinarian.

 No dog breed is exempt from this condition, though it appears most often in large-breed dogs. Gingival surgery may be required every few years in recurrent cases. While this can be frustrating to pet owners, it is essential to the pets overall health. Not removing excessive tissue can lead to dangerous oral infections, painful tooth decay and tooth loss, and difficulty eating and enjoying everyday activities.

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Amanda Burow, D.V.M. (Dr. B), is a graduate of Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Burow’s patient list includes hunting dogs of all varieties, as well as several field trial dogs and full time sporting guide dogs. In addition to practicing general veterinary medicine, she has special interest in the areas of preventive care, emergency medicine, and dermatology. In her spare time, she enjoys being outdoors and on the lake, staying active, reading, and spending time with family and friends.

Mud River is proud to share these tips from Dr. B with our customers. Keep in mind it is best to work with your local veterinarian to determine the needs for your animals.

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