Gingival Hyperplasia in Dogs
Understanding Gingival Hyperplasia (Enlarged Gums) in Dogs
Just like humans, dogs can get plaque buildup on their teeth and gums. This plaque, or other bacterial growth along the gum line, can cause gingival hyperplasia. Gingival hyperplasia is a medical condition in which a dog’s gum tissue becomes enlarged and inflamed.
If left untreated, it often leads to discomfort or periodontal disease.
What Causes Gingival Hyperplasia in Dogs?
The cause of gingival hyperplasia can vary and isn’t fully understood, but genetics play a role. Most animals respond to gingival inflammation with receding gums, but dogs with gingival hyperplasia have gum tissue that enlarges in response to inflammation. Gingival hyperplasia occurs in some breeds more often than others.
Commonly affected breeds include:
- Great Danes
- Labrador Retrievers
Certain medications, including cyclosporine, calcium channel blockers used to treat high blood pressure, and phenytoin used to control seizures, can increase your dog’s likelihood of developing gingival hyperplasia.
Symptoms of Gingival Hyperplasia
When your dog has gingival hyperplasia, pockets can form in the gums, where food and plaque can accumulate. This accumulation causes the gums to become inflamed and puffy. The swelling may appear throughout the entire mouth and the gums may become so swollen that it is hard to see your dog’s teeth. Gums also will become reddened. In some cases, the inflammation can be localized to one area and may look like a single mass or tumor.
If left untreated, the gums can swell to the point that they get in your dog’s way while they are eating, causing your dog to bite them and cause more issues. You may also notice that your dog’s breath is stinky, as the excess bacteria and trapped food can cause halitosis.
How Is Gingival Hyperplasia Diagnosed?
Because gingival hyperplasia presents with physical symptoms, your veterinarian can usually diagnose it during an exam by looking to see if there is any redness, inflammation or overgrowth of gum tissue.
That being said, true diagnosis requires a biopsy. A small sample of the gum is examined under a microscope to determine whether it is hyperplastic (as in gingival hyperplasia) or whether it is hypertrophic or neoplastic (cancer-related). Your veterinary care provider may also take dental X-rays to ensure that there are no underlying issues that aren’t obvious. These tests enable your veterinarian to rule out any other diseases and allows the discussion for treatment to begin.
How Do You Treat Gingival Hyperplasia?
If your dog’s condition is medication-related, your veterinarian may try to change the medication to see if that produces any relief. They may also give your dog a thorough cleaning with oral antibiotics.
For serious cases where the gums are severely overgrown, your dog may need surgical repair to remove the excess tissue. The surgery may also include re-contouring of your dog’s gums to help return the gum line to its original shape and to return any formed pockets to normal so that food and bacteria won’t get trapped.
Your dog will likely need to eat only soft foods for a couple weeks after surgery to allow the gums to heal. Pain medication can be given as needed to reduce your dog’s discomfort during the recovery process.
It is important that you take your dog for routine dental cleanings at least once a year and maintain good oral hygiene habits in order to prevent the condition from recurring.
Covetrus North America is dedicated to the health of animals. Visit us online or contact your Covetrus representative at 855.724.3461.
Need Regulatory Assistance
If you need help with regulatory or licensing issues, we're happy to help. We have a wide variety of resources to help you when issues arise.
Are you looking for a place to let your talents shine? At Covetrus, we help our practitioner customers better serve their patients and take pride in providing the best customer experience possible. Search our open positions to see our available opportunities.
Stay current with what’s going on with Covetrus, subscribe to receive our newsletter and email communications. Subscribers will receive the latest information in practice management, sales and marketing, animal health, and more.