You Make the Diagnosis: Name This Gum Condition in Dogs

Pictured below is the mouth of dog who was having surgery.  The clear trach tube seen extending from his mouth is used to pass a mixture of oxygen and an anesthetic gas into the lungs.  It is gently tied around the dog’s head to keep it from slipping out.  Look closely at the dog’s mouth then answer the following questions:  What does this dog have?  What is(are) the cause(s)?  How is it treated? 

Diagnosis:  Gingival Hyperplasia

Gingival hyperplasia is defined as excessive growth of the gum tissue.  It is caused by an imbalance of cytokinetic in the patients body.  In a normal patient, the amount of gum growth is equal to the amount of gum destruction.  This patient shows what happens when the two are out of sync.  Debris accumulates under the gingival tissue leading to infection and tooth loss. 

There are several drugs that may cause gingival hyperplasia including barbiturates, calcium channel blockers (amlodipine) and cyclosporin.  Some breeds, Collie, Great Dane, Dalmatian and Doberman, are thought to have a genetic predisposition to this condition.  In practice, I see it most commonly in Boxers.  The dog pictured above is a Boxer who was on cyclosporin to control his allergies. 

Treatment involves removing the cause if possible.  In my experience, it takes about a month for the excessive tissue to start to shrink when cyclosporin is removed.  If the cause cannot be removed, then surgical excision is recommended. 

-Hale, Frasier, Focus On: Gingival Hyperplasia, Old Cusp article,

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.