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A dog locked in suffering

Through an owner's ignorance, a golden retriever has spent more than a year in needless suffering.

Published on September 22, 2007



Champ was only a puppy when his owner purchased him, along with two other goldens. A beautiful dog, he was as generous as any golden can be, a charming boy who lived only to please his owner.

By the time Champ was eight or nine months old, however, his owner noticed that the dog wasn't eating. "He's too fussy about his food," the owner thought, and put the dog in a cage along with the dog food.

Instead of giving in, Champ gradually ate less and less. His once lovely coat turned dull and dry. His body lost muscle. He was depressed and inactive. His owner lost interest in him, simply leaving him in the cage.

Champ spent over a year (or perhaps longer) in that cage when the wife of a friend of the owner's saw him and asked the owner for him. "Why do you want such an ugly dog?" the owner asked. "I'll give you one of my others."

The woman insisted, and, with Champ lying weakly in the back of her car, took him directly to dog-rescuer Tharinee "Carrie" Wipuchanin. Carrie recognised immediately that Champ wasn't refusing to eat. Actually, he couldn't open his jaws.

To verify her suspicions, she took him to Czech-trained Dr Kumpanart Soontornvipart, of the Department of Surgery in Chulalongkorn's Faculty of Veterinary Science. Not only did Kumpanart agree with her; he also thought he knew the cause, but to verify his own suspicions, he carried out tests, eliminating other possible causes.

Within days, he had determined Champ's illness - craniomandibular osteopathy (CMO). This disease affects a dog's skull bones, mainly the hinges of the jaws.

Found mainly in terrier breeds, it has also been reported in boxers, Labrador retrievers, great Danes and Doberman pinschers.

There is no known cause of CMO, but it is recognised that the disease is inherited. Dogs with CMO should never be bred.

CMO usually appears in dogs around eight months old, when the bones are still growing. The disease causes the hinges to "over-grow", locking the mouth shut.

There is no known cure for CMO, but within a few months, the abnormal growth slows down by itself.

Thus, by the time Champ was a year old, the terrible growth had abated, but without special foods and supplements, he was barely able to eat.

Kumpanart had seen the illness in other dogs, but only in the early stages. Champ had endured the longest he had ever seen.

At first, the doctor tried to pry the jaws apart, but not even two strong helpers could break the grip of the over-growth. As I write this column, Kumpanart operated on Champ yesterday and removed much of the overgrowth. Today, Champ can open his mouth almost normally, but he still isn't eating much. He needs a great deal of time to recover after so many months of neglect.

Call Champ's previous owner ignorant. He probably didn't know about CMO and assumed the dog was being stubborn. Common sense is not so common, is it?

By Laurie rosenthal


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