Kari loves nothing more than her tennis ball. If we are holding one in our hand she jumps as high as our shoulders with excitement because she knows we are either going to the park or swimming to play fetch.
Several weeks ago we noticed she started showing less and less enthusiasm to play fetch. At first she would still run to the ball, but not pick it up. Then she even quit running to it. I started watching her with everything. She was eating fine, but no longer chewing on her favorite chew bones. I came to the conclusion that she couldn’t open her mouth and when I tried to pry it open further than an inch or so, I could tell it hurt her.
When I described these symptoms to our vet he immediately had a name for her problem… Masticatory Muscle Myositis. I had never heard of this before so I looked it up:
Masticatory Muscle Myositis (MMM) is an inflammatory muscle condition found in dogs and some other animals. This autoimmune disease causes antibodies circulating in the dog’s blood stream to target the muscles of the lower jaw. This condition can become acute manifesting in several attacks, or chronic, which may include attacks over the course of a long period of time.
You may notice that your dog’s jaw does not open nearly as wide as it typically does. The movement of the jaw will be limited, and having the jaw forcibly opened to normal width may cause the dog extreme pain.
In more chronic cases, after the jaw has been worn down by MMM, you may notice that the dog’s muscles have atrophied. The dog may appear to have a sunken head, especially at the top. Muscles around the jaw may shrink, and scar tissue may take their place. The head of the dog may begin to look like a skull, and the eyes may appear sunken because of the loss of muscle mass behind them.
Eye issues may occur in relation to MMM, such as temporary blindness and conjunctivitis.
As there is a lot of pain from the condition, you may notice whimpering during eating.
Blood was drawn to confirm this diagnosis and Kari spent two days at the vet to start therapy. He had to put her under so he could force her mouth open. She came home with a prescription of Prednisone which he said she will have to take for several months.
That was a week ago. I am soooooooo happy to report that our girl is once again running after and retrieving her tennis ball and loving her chew bones. She’s not 100%, and I’m not sure if she ever will be, but we will continue with her medicine and watch her.
Yesterday was her follow-up appointment with the vet. He was happy to see her mouth open wide without pain. He said that dog owners that don’t interact with their pets don’t notice soon enough when this problem develops and then it becomes too late to reverse. I am thankful that we noticed this problem with Kari in time for treatment to work.