What is Craniomandibular Osteopathy?
Puppies generally show signs of craniomandibular osteopathy between two and twelve months of age, although cases have been recorded as early as four weeks or as late as two years. An experienced breeder can recognize the affliction early. Breeders of West Highland Terriers should be well aware of the affliction as it happens in this breed most frequently. Dogs suspected of craniomandibular osteopathy can be tested for the mutation gene.
Craniomandibular osteopathy is a noncancerous growth of bone that results in abnormalities in the jaw of dogs. Most commonly affected are small terrier breeds such as the West Highland Terrier, Cairn Terrier, and Boston Terrier. Less commonly affected breeds include Doberman Pinschers, Labrador Retrievers, English Bull Dogs, Irish Setters and Shetland Sheepdogs.
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Symptoms of Craniomandibular Osteopathy in Dogs
Your dog will likely show signs of distress when trying to eat. Excessive drooling is the most observed sign. Some dogs experience fevers. Some other inconclusive symptoms may be present such as depression or the dog seeming not like himself. Other symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Intermittent fever
- Bulging eyes
- Jaw swelling
- Difficulty opening mouth
- Difficulty picking up food with mouth
Carriers - These dogs have one copy of the mutated gene and one copy of a healthy normal gene. They are at low risk of developing craniomandibular osteopathy themselves. They should most definitely not be breed with another carrier. Arguably, they should not be bred at all.
Homozygous Affected - These dogs have two mutated genes. They are at high risk of developing craniomandibular osteopathy themselves. If they do not develop craniomandibular osteopathy themselves, they can still pass it onto their offspring. They should be removed from any breeding program.
Causes of Craniomandibular Osteopathy in Dogs
Craniomandibular osteopathy is a genetic condition. Dogs with the affliction should be removed from a breeding program, as well as should their littermates. It is a recessive inherited trait, which means that both parents must be carriers for a puppy to become afflicted. Littermates of dogs with craniomandibular osteopathy should be suspected of being carriers of the mutated gene.
Diagnosis of Craniomandibular Osteopathy in Dogs
Diagnosis of craniomandibular osteopathy can be definitively determined with an x-ray of the jaw. Because of the relatively rare occurrence of the disorder and the ambiguous symptoms, your veterinarian may not be lead to a conclusion of craniomandibular osteopathy right away. Blood tests can help diagnosis. They will also help to rule out any secondary infection. In rare cases, a biopsy of the bone is taken to rule out other similar conditions.
Treatment of Craniomandibular Osteopathy in Dogs
Unfortunately, there is no treatment for craniomandibular osteopathy that will slow the growth of the jaw bone. Prednisone is often the steroid employed to ease your dog’s discomfort. Cortizone shots in the jaw are also often used. One big side effect of prednisone is that it will make your dog very thirsty and hungry. This works in your favor if your dog that is underweight or at risk for malnourishment due to his condition. Your dog may need more opportunities to relieve himself as a result of increased thirst and water consumption. Dogs that cannot tolerate eating dry kibble may need a diet comprised of canned food or broths. The goal will be to reach the highest caloric intake your dog will tolerate. Using cooked hamburger or chicken as a topper may help. Your dog may require a lunch or several small meals a day to get back to his ideal weight.
Some cases are self-limiting. A puppy may reach full size and be able to live a normal healthy life. Generally speaking, the later a dog shows signs of craniomandibular osteopathy the better, because the jaw reaches full size shortly after the dog is a year old. In severe cases, a dog may suffer from extreme pain and malnutrition as a result of being unable to eat. Some pet owners consider euthanasia rather than see their pet suffer in this way.
Recovery of Craniomandibular Osteopathy in Dogs
Recovery depends on the severity of the case. There is no surgical option at this point. A wait and see approach is often taken. If the case is not too severe, your dog can generally live a healthy productive life. Most cases of craniomandibular osteopathy are not severe enough to warrant tragic results.