What Is Westie Jaw? Understanding Craniomandibular Osteopathy

Being aware of the different health ailments that your pet can experience is the responsible thing to do as a future pet parent. As a potential Westie owner, you might ask: what is Westie jaw?

Also known as craniomandibular osteopathy (CMO), or lion’s jaw, Westie jaw can be a painful disease to deal with. Knowing the symptoms of the disease, as well as how it can be treated, will help you give your Westie the best quality of life possible.

More than that, it can also help prepare for any surgeries that may become necessary in the future. As a Westie owner, it’s always a great idea to consider the best treatments and products for a better life.

What Is Westie Jaw?

Known as a self-limiting disease, Westie jaw is very noticeable in your Westie between the ages of three and eight months. Fortunately, once your puppy reaches the age of one year, they aren’t likely to experience any worsening symptoms. However, the effects that it can have on your pet can lead to a lack of mobility or pain.

With the disorder, there will be new bone around the skull and jaw area that develops for no apparent reason. You’re most likely to see changes around the lower jaw and the eye socket, which can cause an elongated face.

Over time, your puppy won’t be able to open their mouth properly, which can lead to the need for feeding tubes in severe cases. Some puppies who are born with more severe forms of CMO may need to be euthanized as a kinder alternative to treatment.

Symptoms of Craniomandibular Osteopathy

Similar to a few other diseases Westies may experience, CMO is inherited, which means that you are likely to notice abnormalities from an early age. Most with the condition have severe differences in their heads between three and eight months, and any excessive bone growth may continue until they’re one year old.

Some of the most common symptoms of Westie jaw include:

  • Pain when chewing

As the bones around your dog’s jaw will be misshapen or more substantial than necessary, your dog is likely to experience pain while chewing. This symptom can lead to them not wanting to eat and avoiding their food.

In these cases, pet parents will need to explore the option of inserting a feeding tube to prolong the life of their Westie.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever (intermittent)

Your Westie may experience fevers that come intermittently and don’t last forever. Unfortunately, high internal temperatures can also contribute to a loss of appetite.

  • Excessive drooling

With the inability to close their misshapen jaw, you are likely to experience a lot of drooling from your Westie. As this breed isn’t known for being a rather slobbery dog, this symptom is one of the most recognizable.

  • Jaw swelling

As one of the leading causes of discomfort, swelling around the jaw is very common in Westies with CMO. The development of new and unnatural bones can cause the surrounding tissues to be inflamed.

  • Bulging eyes

The Onset of CMO

If you have begun to notice any of the above symptoms, you must visit your veterinarian. If your Westie is diagnosed with CMO, you can expect the majority of problems to occur during their first year of life.

This time is when you will have to put the most into treatments. You also want to make sure that they are as comfortable as possible.

One of the more interesting factors of the lion’s jaw is that it may recede after one year. As the excessive bony growth slows and then stops, it may also regress. In some Westies, CMO has been known to recede completely, allowing your dog to return to their normal state.

What Causes Craniomandibular Osteopathy?

The etiology of CMO is unknown, and there certainly needs to be more research put into determining what genetic markers cause the disorder. However, the medical community is aware that it is an inherited disease, which means that it could have a chromosomal link in terms of development.

This point is particularly valid with West Highland terriers as well as other terrier breeds, including Boston terriers, Cairn terriers, and Scottish terriers. There are several dog breeds where CMO is less likely to occur, though these breeds may have their inherited diseases as well.

Those who are less likely to deal with this disorder include great Danes, Doberman pinschers, Labrador retrievers, English bulldogs, and boxers.

How Is Westie Jaw Diagnosed?

With most pet parents, the way their Westie obtains a diagnosis is because they begin to see the signs and symptoms of the disease. This issue then prompts them to visit the veterinarian, who will render the diagnosis. Most often, it will start with your Westie being unable to open or close their mouth correctly.

Many pet parents have found that the appetite of their Westie is the first indicator that something is wrong. Due to the jaw pain, they will be far less likely to eat at appropriate intervals, if at all. You may also begin to notice that their jaw will be more substantial than the rest of their head.

Upon your arrival to the vet, you will have to provide a full medical history of your pet, including any current symptoms. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, your vet may recommend specific treatments. You will also need to expect them to do medical examinations and tests, such as x-rays, chemical blood profiles, and complete blood counts so that they can rule out infections.

X-rays are by far one of the most common tests; they will give the radiologist and vet a clear idea of the bone development. They will have a clear indication of any abnormal growths that could be causing the discomfort in your pet. To make the process less stressful for your Westie, they may be put under anesthesia.

A few other medical conditions your vet will want to rule out include osteomyelitis and hypertrophic osteodystrophy. The first disease is a bone infection, and the second is a disease that prevents blood from flowing to the bone joints.

How Do I Treat Westie Jaw?

There’s nothing worse than seeing your dog in pain, especially from something that you can’t fix on your own. Unfortunately, there is yet to be a reliable treatment for CMO that can be used to slow the progression. The main thing you will need to remember is that any excessive growth will stop within a year and could be likely to regress.

The best course of action your vet will recommend is to treat the symptoms of the disease so that your Westie can live as normal of a life as possible. For example, you will need treatments for appetite issues, movement pain, any lack of mobility, and fevers.

With the right prescriptions, you can prevent your dog’s pain and give them the best possible quality of life. Some pet parents may opt for surgical procedures, especially if their Westie has a rather severe onset of Westie jaw.

If you find that the bone development is severely impacting the function of the jaw, surgery may be the best and only solution. During the procedure, the surgeon will remove any abnormal and excessive tissue to help limit discomfort and improve overall function.

Helping Your Westie Live With Westie Jaw

Pet parents should also be prepared to manage the lifestyle of their puppy to help make them as comfortable as possible. You will want to have a high-calorie diet readily prepared for them in a way that is easy to ingest.

For example, high-calorie soups and broths could be provided to give your puppy an ample amount of nourishment.

At times, if your puppy still finds it challenging to eat soft foods or purely liquid foods, you may want to consider having a feeding tube inserted. This process can help your pet to get all of the nourishment they need without ever having to open and close their jaw.

We also recommend investing in a plush and comfortable bed for them to rest in. As they are likely to be in pain, you’ll want the best dog bed that can help to ease any soreness.

Final Thoughts

Even though the disease isn’t fatal in most cases, CMO can be a painful and challenging disease for puppies to live with. If you have ever wondered what is Westie jaw, it’s best to do your research, as it’s one of the more common inherited diseases among terriers.

3 Comments on “What Is Westie Jaw? Understanding Craniomandibular Osteopathy”

  1. Your article did not mention that there is a test that can be given to see if the male and female dogs that will be used for breeding have the gene for Westie Jaw. As I understand the research, a puppy can only inherit this if both parents have the recessive gene. Hopefully all breeders of terriers have this information. A test has been available since 2016. We have an 8 month old Westie with Westie Jaw and the vet and breeder knew nothing about it because, although you state is very common, it appears to be rare from what I have read. The groomer noticed the bumps on her jaw at 4 months and said she has groomed hundreds of Westies and never felt anything like that. I hope every person who is considering a Westie ( this is our second and we adore her!!) will be able to do so with confidence that there is no CMO present and no chance of it being present. Thank You

  2. My 5 month old westie was just diagnosed with CMO. Do I have any recall with the breeder besides returning her? I am attached to my puppy and want to keep her but a partial refund would certainly help with vet bills. I have a had time believing my breeder didn’t know about this.

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