Jaw Disease in Macropods
I J Hough B.Sc., B.M.V.S.
article was first printed in “Keeping Marsupials”
some time ago but is relevent to Trevor
Harrowfield’s article on the Dama Wallaby.
infections in macropods are relatively common and
often very difficult to cure. Appropriate
management of your animals can help reduce the
incidence of this disease.
Jaw” as it is often known can affect a range of
macropods. It has been seen in red Kangaroos (Macropus
Rufus), Western Grey Kangoroos (M.
fuliginosus), Euros (M. robustus),
Swamp Wallabies (Wallabia
Dama (Tammar) Wallabies (Macropus eugenii),
Northern brown Bandicoots (Isoodon macrourus) and
Potoroos (Potorous tridactylus).
There have been a large array of bacteria
isolated out of these infections but the primary
culprit is Fusobacterium necrophorous.
Fusobacterium necrophorous is an organism that
lives in soil and as such always represents a risk
Given that the organism is likely to be present
in your yards, other factors must be involved to
allow the infection to develop. It is
controlling these factors that ultimately
determines wether you will have lumpy jaw or not.
There are two forms of overcrowding. The
obvious form is simply too many animals in the
area provided. The other is where the
compatability of the animals in a given area is
theoretically adequate for those animals. This
second form is especially true when the sex ratios
get skewed with more males than females.
Yards that do not drain water well seem to have
more problems than well drained yards. Try
and ensure adequate run-off, this will also help
reduce the chance of coccidiosis. On the clay
based soils, common around
it may be necessary to dig drains and use sand.
animal kept on a less than adequate diet is more
likely to develop disease. Pasture is rapidly
degraded under grazing pressure and suitable
supplements need to be provided. Fresh fruit
and vegetables, quality hay, and kangaroo pellets
are some of the extra foodstuffs that can and
should be provided. Animals grazing on very
short growth will wear their teeth faster as they
are chewing a lot of dirt and sand.
Inflammation of the gums can allow infection to
enter the body. Diets with mainly harsh and dry
foods increase the chance of gum injury whilst
diets composed mainly of soft foods promote tartar
build up and gingivitis. A mix of both softer
and harder foods needs to be provided on regular
Ageing increases the chance of lumpy jaw
dramatically. As macropods age they shed some
of their teeth and the rest of their molars move
forward in the jaw. This gives an opportunity for
the causative organism to enter the gums.
is far more common to see lumpy jaw in species
being kept outside their normal range, such as the
Red Kangaroo in Adelaide. Suitable shelter
from the weather, and heaters during the winter,
help to reduce this type of stress.
Other environmental stressors can be earthworks,
dogs, foxes, children, bush fires, in short
anything that the animal finds distressing.
These, acting over at length of time, will
reduce the animal's resistance to disease and thus
increase the chance of lumpy jaw.
lumpy jaw has occurred in your yards it is more
likely to re-occur due to increased contamination.
Expose the yard to as much sun as possible and
encourage good drainage. Consider removing the
infected animal from the yard.
Regular cleaning of the yard to remove excess
droppings, stale and decayed food, and old hay
will also assist in reducing the incidence of this