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Broken Jaws in Dogs: Causes & Treatments

Suffering a broken jawbone can be a very painful and scary experience for your dog. In this post, our Fort Oglethorpe vets explain how broken jaw injuries in dogs can occur and how you can help your pup. 

What Can Cause a Broken Jaw in Dogs?

Trauma or periodontal disease can cause or lead to mandibular (jaw) fractures in dogs. Common traumatic events include a dog being hit by a car or getting into a fight with another dog. 

Since bone loss can weaken the mandible, periodontal disease can leave a dog at higher risk of suffering a jaw fracture due to something as simple such as chewing on a toy, bumping into furniture, or even biting down on a piece of food. 

If your pooch gets into a fight with another dog or is hit by a motor vehicle, it is important to have your four-legged companion assessed for additional injuries. When the fracture occurs or as soon as you notice it, it's always best to bring your pet in to see your vet or seek emergency veterinary care. Once the dog has been stabilized and other injuries have been treated, the jaw fracture can be addressed. 

Repairing a Dog's Broken Jaw 

Metal plates, wires, and screws are sometimes required to repair a jaw fracture. However, some fractures can be treated with acrylic splints, which are much easier to place and in many cases do not require a complicated surgical procedure. The primary goal of treatment is to correctly align the teeth. 

Once a veterinarian has placed an acrylic splint, your pet will need to avoid chewing on toys or hard objects for several weeks to prevent the acrylic splint from becoming dislodged. Put away any hard toys or objects your dog may be tempted to chew on, and feed only soft food until your vet recommends integrating hard food back into your pup's diet. 

Once your vet has assessed the fracture site and declares it healed, a second brief anesthesia will be needed so X-rays can be taken to confirm the area has healed. If the fracture is healed, the splint can be removed. 

Depending on the method used to repair the fracture, one last anesthetized procedure may need to be scheduled to remove the wire or splint in the mouth.

Caring for Your Dog After Jaw Surgery

After repairing the fracture, your vet will provide detailed instructions regarding home care for your dog, including feeding and exercise restrictions. Patients need to be confined and kept on a leash to minimize running, playing, or jumping around during the healing process.

How to Feed a Dog With a Broken Jaw

Regardless of the type of repair technique used during jaw surgery, we often recommend that pet owners feed a soft diet or food made into a paste-like consistency to minimize pressure and motion around the fracture.

Initially, a feeding tube may be necessary while they adapt to their new situation. Feeding tubes can sound scary to pet owners, however, most patients adjust quickly and tolerate the feeding tube very well. Detailed instructions for the feeding tube including how to use it, care for it, and specific feeding instructions are always fully explained and written down for your reference. 

The Prognosis for a Jaw Fracture Repair

The prognosis for jaw fracture repair typically ranges from good to excellent, with a few exceptions.  Maxillary fractures tend to be fairly stable and carry an excellent prognosis.  The prognosis for mandibular fractures is more variable and heavily influenced by the cause(s) of the fracture(s).  Mandibular fractures resulting from minor trauma such as a mild fall, tend to have a great prognosis.

Older, small-breed dogs with severe periodontal disease that suffer fractures during surgical extractions tend to have less-than-ideal healing characteristics. The prognosis may be poor, guarded, or fair.

The prognosis also depends on the severity of the injury.  If the neurovascular blood supply is damaged, the prognosis is worse. The cause of the trauma, impact force, duration of the injury, and bacterial contamination all play a role in your dog's outcome.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you suspect your dog is suffering from an injured or broken jaw? Contact our Fort Oglethorpe vets right away. 

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The The Animal Medical Center of Fort Oglethorpe is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Fort Oglethorpe companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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