Symptoms of Mouth Problems in Dogs
Oral papillomas are painless warts
that grow on the lips and in the mouths of dogs younger than 2 years old. They
are caused by the canine oral papilloma virus. Initially, papillomas are small
and pink. Over four to six weeks, they increase in size and take on a rough,
grayish-white, cauliflowerlike appearance. As many as 50 to 100 papillomas may
Skin papillomas caused by the same virus are common and occur on the surface
of the eyelids and the skin of the
Treatment: Oral papillomas usually disappear spontaneously in 6 to 12 weeks.
If they fail to do so, they can be removed by surgery, freezing, or electrocautery. Chemotherapy is
effective in dogs with numerous lesions. The dog’s immune system makes
antibodies that prevent reinfection.
Growths in the Mouth
A common tumor in the mouth is the epulis, seen most often in Boxers and
Bulldogs. These benign tumors grow from the periodontal membrane in response to
gum inflammation. They appear as growths on a flap of tissue. There are often
multiple growths. Rarely, an epulis becomes malignant.
Gingival hyperplasia is a condition in which the gums grow up alongside or
over the teeth. A familial inheritance has been identified in Boxers, and is
suspected in Great Danes, Collies, Doberman Pinschers, and Dalmatians. The
enlarged gums can interfere with eating and are easily traumatized. They also
predispose the dog to periodontal disease. If any of these occur, the enlarged
gums should be surgically removed.
Malignant tumors in the mouth are rare. In order of frequency, they include
melanoma, squamous cell
carcinoma, and fibrosarcoma. These tumors tend to occur in older dogs. Biopsy
is required to make an exact diagnosis.
Dogs with oral tumors may drool, have trouble eating, and/or have a very
foul odor to their breath. The drool may be bloody.
Treatment: Early, aggressive treatment of mouth tumors, with wide local
excision and/or radiation therapy, offers the best chance for a cure. Surgery
may involve removing part of the upper or lower jaw.
In many cases the tumor is already too far advanced for treatment. The
prognosis is best for squamous cell carcinomas. Fifty percent of treated dogs
survive a year or longer.