If your dog’s gums seem to be taking up more real estate in his mouth than they have any right to, you may be looking at a case of enlarged gums, which is known as “gingival hyperplasia” (GH) in medical terms.
This article has been written to properly explain this condition, how it can come into being and what you can do if you suspect your dog is suffering from it.
How Is It Caused?
This is an ailment that can hit just one tooth or all of the teeth in your dog’s mouth. While it affects the gums, the health of your dog’s teeth matter because it determines how badly the GH gets.
Food and bad bacteria get stuck in the crevices of the mouth and this leads to the gums becoming inflamed and raising the chances of developing an oral disease. In severe cases, the gums are prominent enough for the dog to chew on his own gum tissue.
With GH, the gums do not take on a uniform texture, they can be smooth in some cases while others are rough and bumpy. While gingival hyperplasia is not a direct threat, it can lead to several negative problems due to the increased opportunity for plaque and tartar to accumulate.
Symptoms of Canine Gingival Hyperplasia
The fortunate thing about this issue is that is easily determined:
- Are the dog’s gums crowding out the teeth or abnormally advanced?
- Is there inflammation?
- Is the gum line lined with growths that look like grape clusters?
- Are the gums a deep red instead of pink?
- Are any teeth totally obscured by the gums?
- Is there blood after eating?
Types of Gingival Hyperplasia
There are three broad categories of GH.
- Idiopathic: This is when the cause is unknown and indeterminate.
- Breed disposition: Some breeds, like Boxers, are more susceptible to GH.
- Induced by medication: GH is sometimes a side effect of certain medications. Chiefly, immunosuppressants, anticonvulsants or medications that stop calcium from depositing into the heart and blood vessels.
Diagnosing Canine Gingival Hyperplasia
This condition usually starts in middle age. Your vet will assess the dog’s mouth and gums during a standard exam and look for the symptoms covered above. If GH seems likely, the vet will perform an anesthetized exam.
If inflammation is deemed the fault, X-rays will be taken to determine severity. The vet will also biopsy a piece of gum to confirm the condition and discern its treatment.
Treating Gingival Hyperplasia
There are two main ways of treating GH, medical treatment or surgery. If the GH developed due to medication, a change in medication is called for; cutting off treatment is not an option. The vet may recommend giving a thorough cleaning with oral antibiotics. While antibiotics will help stop inflammation, it will not cause the GH to retract.
Actually removing the excess gum tissue and filling in the deep pockets that allow bacteria to hide away and proliferate calls for oral surgery. Specifically, the dog will undergo a gingivoplasty, allowing a veterinary specialist to reshape the gum tissue and trim away the excess. The surgery can involve lasers, electrical work or a traditional scalpel.
While a gingivoplasty is a simple procedure to perform, it can be quite consuming of the physician’s time and your money. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that GH will happen again; this is especially true in cases where the GH is a result of genetics, rather than poor oral hygiene.
Recovering from Gingival Hyperplasia
Just like with any other illness that may call for surgical correction, the care does not stop at the vet’s office. After your dog finishes his initial recovery at the clinic, the specialist will explain what steps need to be taken at home and also inform you of what you should be mindful of during the dog’s recovery. This sort of condition entails the need for check-ups to gauge the gums’ health.
Your dog will require a warm bed and to should left quietly in peace. He may also not show strong signs of hunger due to all of the trauma that recently happened in his mouth. While it is a bad idea to abstain from keeping the dog feed, stick to feeding him soft foods and provide him with plenty of clean water. The specialist may also prescribe medications that will help fight pain and any inflammation.
Fortunately for dog owners dealing with this issue, most cases of gingival hyperplasia tend to end on a positive note.