A broken jawbone can be a very painful and scary experience for your dog. In this post, our Sacramento vets explain the causes of a broken jaw in dogs, how the injury can be treated and how to care for your pooch following this injury.
Causes of a Broken Jaw in Dogs
Trauma or periodontal disease can cause mandibular fractures in dogs. Common traumatic events include an altercation with another dog or being struck by a car.
If your dog has periodontal disease, they may be more likely to suffer a jaw fracture. When bone is lost, the mandible grows weaker, leaving it susceptible to fracture when a dog does something as simple as bumping into furniture, biting a piece of food or chewing on one of its toys.
If your dog has been in a fight with another dog or gotten hit by a car, it's important to have a veterinarian give your pet a comprehensive assessment for additional injuries.
It's always best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible after the fracture happens or is noticed. You may need to seek emergency veterinary care. Once your dog is stabilized and treated for other injuries, the vet can address the jaw fracture.
The Goal of Repairing a Jaw Fracture
Helping your dog to eat and rest comfortably as soon as possible after their injury is the most important objective in jaw fracture repair surgery. If either the upper or lower jaw heals without being aligned correctly, your pet may suffer from malocclusion.
Avoiding injury to the tooth roots and the neurovascular (nerve and blood vessels) bundle within the mandibular or infraorbital canals is critical. The ultimate goal is to properly repair the fracture and help your dog recover from their broken jaw.
Treating Jaw Fractures in Dogs
Wires, screws and metal plates are sometimes required to repair a jaw fracture. However, some fractures can be treated with acrylic splints. Splints are much easier to place and in many cases will not require your veterinary surgeon to perform a complicated surgical incision. The primary goal of treatment is to ensure that the teeth line up correctly.
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.
How to Feed a Dog With a Broken Jaw
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.
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 reduced. 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. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.