Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction in Pets

Temporomandibular dysfunction is not a common condition in dogs especially, but we do see cases on occasion at I-20 Animal Medical Center.

The main symptoms of Temporomandibular dysfunction are refusing to open or close the mouth, resisting eating anything hard or exhibiting tenderness around the jaw muscles or sides of the head. Your pet may paw at his face, whimper when eating or even hold his jaw in funny ways. In humans, TMD is often mistaken for an earache. The cause of TMD is a joint and disc that are not seating properly. When this occurs, the joint becomes inflamed and very tender.

The most common causes of TMD include trauma, infections, developmental problems, carrying around a heavy chew toy or object for extended periods of time, a tumor or cyst and, in very rare cases, tetanus.

At I-20 Animal Medical Center, we often take detailed X-rays of the area or even an MRI when a pet presents with these symptoms. However, because X-rays and MRIs are taken in a stationary position, and TMD is visible when the disc on the head of the condyle is moving improperly during opening and closing, we typically diagnose by symptoms and the physical exam. Diagnosing and treating TMD should not be done by your regular veterinarian but by a veterinary dentistry specialist, like at I-20 Animal Medical Center.

So if your dog or cat shows the above symptoms and they persist for more than two weeks, then it is a good idea to let a specialist take a look. In humans, TMD can be very painful, so we assume that animals experience the same level of discomfort.

Treatment can consist of simple solutions such as changing chew toys. Sometimes more complex treatments such as steroids, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants are needed. Occasionally, we even need to do bite equilibration if one or more teeth are preventing proper closure. If a cyst or tumor is present, it might have to be removed surgically. A good veterinary dentist will look at all these treatment options and pick the correct course of action once the proper diagnosis has been made.

Schedule pet dental care at I-20 Animal Medical Center by calling 817.478.9238.