Craniomandibular Osteopathy is an autosomal disease that causes excessive growth of the skulls, particularly affecting the joint between the upper and lower jawbone.
The excessive growth can get to such an extent that the affected dog is unable to open and close their jaw properly which leads to pain, a lack of appetite and malnourishment.
The condition affects the dog at a very young age and the growth will oddly slow, regress or even recede completely at around 1 years old. This is not always the case though and sometimes long-term damage or fusion has been caused which may require surgery and, in some cases, even euthanasia is considered if the quality of life will be too poor.
There is unfortunately no treatment available to stop the bone growth and there is nothing that can be done to prevent the condition. All that can be done is to provide therapy that will be targeted at reducing the pain and swelling therefore reducing the dogs discomfort.
There are no tests to identify the disease before a puppy is born but the disease can be diagnosed via a physical examination or an x ray by a vet.
This genetic disease will only affect a puppy if both of its parents passed down the gene. If they only have one gene, then they are a carrier and will show no symptoms, but they can pass the gene on to their offspring. This means both affected dogs and carriers should never be bred so that they can’t pass the defective gene on to their offspring.
Although the disease is rare, West Highland Terriers are at a significantly higher risk than other dog breeds. You can reduce the risk of purchasing a puppy with the defective gene by checking that the breeder has the health history of both parents showing that they don’t have the defective gene.