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Broken Jaws in Dogs: Causes & Treatments

Broken jaw injuries in dogs can be painful and scary. In this article, our veterinarians in Palmyra discuss how to help your pup if they suffer this type of injury.

Causes of a Broken Jaw in Dogs

Mandibular fractures can occur due to trauma or periodontal disease. Traumatic events such as a dog being hit by a car or getting into a fight with another dog are common causes of jaw fractures. On the other hand, periodontal disease can weaken the mandible, making it prone to fractures caused by minor events such as bumping into furniture, chewing on toys, or biting down on food.

If your dog has been in an accident or a fight, it's important to have them thoroughly evaluated for additional injuries. In case of a jaw fracture, it's always best to have your pet seen by a vet or seek emergency veterinary care. The jaw fracture can be addressed once the dog is stabilized or treated for other injuries.

The Goal of Repairing a Jaw Fracture

One of the most crucial objectives in jaw fracture repair surgery is to enable your dog to eat and rest comfortably as soon as possible after the injury. If either the upper or lower jaw heals in the wrong alignment, it may lead to malocclusion. It is of utmost importance to prevent any damage to the tooth roots and the neurovascular bundle (nerve and blood vessels) present in the mandibular or infraorbital canals. The ultimate goal of the surgery is to repair the fracture and help your dog regain mobility successfully.

Treating Jaw Fractures in Dogs

Sometimes, a jaw fracture may require treatment with metal plates, screws, and wires. However, some fractures can be treated with acrylic splints, which are more straightforward to place and do not require a complicated surgical incision. The primary goal of treatment is to ensure that the teeth are properly aligned.

After the placement of an acrylic splint, your pet should refrain from chewing on anything hard for several weeks. You should put away any hard toys that may dislodge the acrylic splint. Feed only softened food until your vet approves the consumption of hard food again. Once the fracture site is healed, a second brief anesthesia is required to confirm the healing through X-rays. If the fracture has healed, the splint is 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 from the mouth.

The Prognosis for a Jaw Fracture Repair

The prognosis for repairing jaw fractures is usually good to excellent, except for a few cases. Maxillary fractures are generally stable and have an excellent prognosis. The prognosis for mandibular fractures is more variable and depends heavily on the cause of the fracture.

If the fracture is the result of minor trauma, such as a mild fall, the prognosis is generally great. However, older small-breed dogs with severe periodontal disease that suffer fractures during surgical extractions tend to have less-than-ideal healing characteristics, and their prognosis may be poor, guarded, or fair.

The severity of the injury also plays an essential role in determining the prognosis. If the neurovascular blood supply is damaged, the prognosis is reduced. The cause of the trauma, impact force, duration of the injury, and bacterial contamination all affect the outcome of your dog.

Caring for Your Dog After Jaw Surgery

After repairing the fracture, your vet will provide detailed instructions regarding home care for your dog. Patients must be confined and kept on a leash to minimize running, playing, or jumping around during healing. Regardless of the type of repair technique used, 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. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.

Do you think your dog is suffering from a broken jaw? Contact our Palmyra vets right away for an appointment.

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