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Broken Jaws in Dogs: Causes & Treatments

A broken jawbone can be a painful and frightening experience for your beloved canine companion. Today, our Rabun County vets explain how dogs can get broken jaws, how their jaw injuries can be repaired, and how to care for your pet after this injury.

Causes of a Broken Jaw in Dogs

A common cause of broken bones in dogs is traumatic events including a dog being struck by a car or an altercation with another dog. Mandibular fractures tend to occur because of a trauma, or as a result of periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease increases the likelihood of a dog experiencing a jaw fracture. The gradual bone loss in the mandible weakens its structure, making it more susceptible to fractures from seemingly minor actions like bumping into furniture, chewing toys, or even biting down on food.

In the case of vehicular trauma or an altercation with another dog, it is important to have your pet fully evaluated for additional injuries. When the fracture occurs or is noticed, it is always best to have your pet seen by your vet or seek emergency veterinary care. Once the dog is stabilized or treated for other injuries, the jaw fracture can be addressed.

The Goal of Repairing a Jaw Fracture

The most important objective in jaw fracture repair surgery is to allow 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, the patient may suffer from malocclusion. Protecting the tooth roots and the neurovascular bundle within the mandibular or infraorbital canals is crucial. The primary objective is to effectively repair the fracture, ensuring your dog's swift recovery and return to their usual activities.

Treating Jaw Fractures in Dogs

In some cases, fixing a jaw fracture may necessitate the use of metal plates, screws, and wires, while others can be treated with acrylic splints. Splints offer a simpler placement process and often do not entail complex surgical incisions. The primary objective of treatment is to ensure proper alignment of the teeth.

Once an acrylic splint is in place, your pet will need to abstain from chewing on toys or anything hard for several weeks. Put away any hard toys which may cause the acrylic splint to become dislodged. Feed only softened food until your vet tells you that it’s safe for them to eat hard food again. Once the doctor feels that the fracture site is healed, a second brief anesthesia is required to confirm healing with X-rays. If the fracture is 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 in the mouth.

Repairing a Jaw Fracture

A 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 reduced. The cause of the trauma, impact force, duration of the injury, and bacterial contamination all play a role in your dog's outcome.

Caring for Your Dog After Jaw Surgery

Following the fracture repair, your veterinarian will offer comprehensive guidance on at-home care for your dog. It's essential to restrict your pet's activities, ensuring they remain confined and leashed to prevent excessive running, playing, or jumping while the healing process takes place. 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.

How to Feed a Dog with a Broken Jaw

A dog with a broken jaw will need to eat different foods or use a feeding tube. 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. 

Contact our Rabun County vets if your pup has a broken jaw. Our team will see you and your pet as quickly as we can.

We Can't Wait To Meet You!

Rabun Animal Hospital is currently accepting new patients! Our wonderful veterinarians are dedicated to the health and happiness of Rabun County dogs, cats, and exotic pets. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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