Harley is a bright and happy 1 year old boxer. In November 2011 at 8 months of age Harley was examined at Riverside Small Animal Hospital with a problem in his jaw. His owners Murray and Bjorka noted that when Harley yawned his jaw would pop open and then lock in place, he seemed to be able to relieve the locking himself. Harley was bright and happy, was eating normally. The episodes of locking seemed only to occur with yawning. Harley was examined and found to be an outwardly healthy young Boxer. Harley’s owners decided to monitor Harley’s symptoms as most days this seemed like a minor inconvenience for Harley and did not seem appreciably painful.
As the weeks went on the frequency and severity of these episodes seemed to be increasing and another visit to Riverside was in order. During this exam Harley did not experience any locking but given the progression of symptoms and his facial conformation sedation and radiographs were recommended. With sedation, the joint that hinges the lower jaw (Temporomandibular Joint – TMJ) was noted to be loose, more significantly on the right but also on the Left. These radiographs were sent for assessment by a board certified radiologist at Idexx telemedicine. The radiologist diagnosed a congenital deformation of the TMJ; a CT scan was recommended along with consulting a specialist surgeon to explore options to correct the defect.
Fortunately for Harley a specialist in Kelowna was able to provide the recommended diagnostic tests. A CT scan was performed in early December and Harley was diagnosed with bilateral dysplasia of TMJ, in short deformed joints. This deformity is uncommon but when occurs tends to be in specific breeds including the Boxer. Surgery to correct the abnormal anatomy was recommended. This particular surgery is not very common and involves removing some of the bone which obstructs function of the TMJ. The initial surgery was performed on the right TMJ, this seemed to correct the right side locking but in turn the left side began locking the day after surgery. Two days later surgery was performed on the left side as well.
Aside for a couple of minor post operative complications, Harley has made a full recovery and now enjoys each normal yawn!
For most owners managing a condition like Harley’s would have been a huge financial investment and one which would have not been possible in many cases. Fortunately as a puppy Harley’s owners chose to purchase health insurance, they realized a puppy that is healthy at 8 weeks can have health problems develop at any time. In Harley’s case the majority of cost for the above diagnostics and surgery were covered by Trupanion Pet Insurance. This is Murray and Bjorka’s second insured pet and they are more than convinced that insurance is the way to go.