Pet Questions

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Q My three-year-old Westie suffered with lion jaw as a pup. We have to mash her food now, and she eats well, but we know there is an operation that could help her. It’s quite a major operation, and quite expensive, but would it do more harm than good?

A “Lion jaw” is the common name given to a disease called craniomandibular osteodystrophy.

This is more common in certain breeds, including West Highland white terriers, and is a condition which causes abnormal growth of the bones of the jaw and skull. It occurs during bone development and the cause isn’t yet known.

It can cause difficulty eating due to pain, especially between four and seven months of age. Often the bones stop growing abnormally at around a year of age and these dogs can go on to lead a fairly normal, pain-free life, though some may still have difficulty eating.

It is not possible to treat lion jaw, but the pain during the first 12 months must be managed with medication.

Sometimes surgery is attempted in later life to try to increase the range of movement of the jaw, but I am aware that undertaking this surgery is not always successful.

Your vet will know your own dog’s condition and will be able to make a recommendation on further treatment based, in part, on X-rays of your dog’s jaw.

Q One of my ferrets seems to be losing hair around his tail, and on the back of his neck. What could be causing this?

A Fur loss can have a number of different causes – for example, it could be due to a bacterial skin infection or a hormonal condition.

You need to take your ferret to see your vet so he can be properly examined and diagnosed.

Bacterial skin infections in ferrets are often the result of injuries from playing or fighting, so if this is the case then you should check that your ferrets are getting on with each other and not being too aggressive.

• Stuart McMorrow is based at Edinburgh’s PDSA PetAid Hospital, Hutchison Crossway, 0131-443 6178