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Jawbone Enlargement in Dogs

Craniomandibular Osteopathy in Dogs

Enlargement of the jawbone in dogs, known as craniomandibular osteopathy, affects the mandible and temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This condition involves the formation of excess bone along these areas, leading to pain and difficulty in opening the mouth and eating. Typically observed in puppies aged four to eight months, it is more prevalent in certain breeds such as Scottish Terriers, Cairn Terriers, and West Highland White Terriers. Additionally, breeds like Labrador Retrievers, Great Danes, Boston Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, Irish Setters, English Bulldogs, and Boxers may also experience a higher incidence of this condition, albeit to a lesser extent.

Symptoms and Types

  • Pain experienced when opening the mouth
  • Difficulty in opening the mouth
  • Challenges in picking up food
  • Difficulty chewing accompanied by loss of appetite
  • Increasing pain and difficulty in eating over time
  • Intermittent fever
  • Bulging eyes (exophthalmos) caused by skull swelling
  • Swelling in the jaw
  • Excessive drooling


The primary cause of craniomandibular osteopathy in dogs is inherited genetic predisposition, with West Highland White Terriers showing the strongest genetic link.


Your veterinarian will require a comprehensive account of your dog’s medical history leading up to the appearance of symptoms. During the examination, special attention will be given to your dog’s head. Your veterinarian may detect a reduction in muscle mass on the sides of the head and thickening of the jawbone. Pain will be evident when attempting to open your dog’s mouth, which may be limited in its range of motion.

A thorough blood profile, including chemical blood analysis, complete blood count, and biochemistry levels, will be conducted to detect any bone abnormalities. Additional blood tests may be necessary to rule out fungal or other infections. X-ray imaging of your dog’s head will be the most accurate diagnostic tool to visualize the abnormal bone growth. In most instances, these tests will suffice, but in certain cases, your veterinarian may opt for a bone biopsy to confirm the absence of tumors or bone infections contributing to your dog’s symptoms.


Treatment typically involves administering anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling and providing pain relief for your dog. However, it’s important to note that these measures won’t lead to an immediate cure but rather help alleviate symptoms. The condition generally requires a “wait and see” approach since there’s no effective method for halting its progression other than managing the swelling. Typically, the growth slows down around one year of age when the puppy’s growth rate decreases, and it may even regress. However, many dogs may still have an enlarged jawbone and experience ongoing difficulties with chewing.

In certain cases, surgery might be recommended to improve jaw function and enhance your dog’s comfort. Specialized diets, such as high-calorie soups or liquids, may be necessary during the treatment period if your dog struggles with eating regular food. If your dog is unable to consume even a liquid diet, surgical placement of a feeding tube into the stomach or esophagus may be required. It’s essential to carefully follow all instructions provided regarding prescribed medications, as they can sometimes cause stomach upset.

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will schedule regular follow-up appointments to monitor your dog’s nutritional intake and pain levels. If your dog requires feeding through a tube, it’s crucial to adhere to your veterinarian’s instructions regarding tube usage and feeding frequency.

As your pet approaches ten to twelve months of age, the intensity of pain may diminish, and there could be a reduction in the excess bone formation around the jaw. The prognosis depends on the extent of bone growth. Your dog may continue to require special dietary provisions or a feeding tube for the remainder of its life.


To prevent the transmission of craniomandibular osteopathy, dogs affected by the condition should not be bred, nor should their siblings from the same litter, regardless of whether they display symptoms. Additionally, it is advisable to have your dog spayed or neutered to prevent the inheritance of this genetic abnormality.

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