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Broken Jaws in Dogs: Causes & Treatments

As scary as it sounds, broken jaws are a common – and very painful – injury in dogs. In this blog post, our Turlock vets explain the causes of a broken jaw in dogs, how your pup's jaw can be repaired, and how to care for them as they recover. 

Causes of a Broken Jaw in Dogs

Mandibular fractures, or broken jaws, tend to occur in dogs because of trauma or as a result of periodontal disease. Common traumatic events include being in an altercation with another dog or being struck by a car. 

Periodontal disease can increase your dog's risk of suffering from a jaw fracture. Bone loss can weaken the mandible, predisposing the jaw bone to fracture when your dog chews on one of their toys, bumps into furniture, or even bites down on a piece of food. 

If your dog is is hit by a car or gets into an altercation with another dog, it's important to have your pet fully evaluated for additional injuries. When the fracture occurs or is noticed, it is always best to bring your pet in to see your vet or to seek emergency veterinary care. Once a veterinarian can treat other injuries and stabilize your pup, they will address the jaw fracture. 

The Goal of Repairing a Jaw Fracture 

Our most important objective of 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 ongoing malocclusion (misalignment). Avoiding injury to the tooth roots and neurovascular (nerve and blood vessels) bundle within the mandibular or infraorbital canals is critical. The ultimate goal is to successfully repair the fracture and get your dog back on their feet. 

Treatment for a Dog With a Broken Jaw 

A vet will sometimes need to repair a jar fracture with metal plates, wires, and screws to treat a broken jaw, but some fractures can be treated with acrylic splints. In many cases, splints do not require a complicated surgical incision and they are much simpler to place. The primary goal of treating this injury is ensuring the teeth line up correctly. 

Once an acrylic splint is in place, your dog will need to abstain from chewing on any hard objects or toys for several weeks. Put away any hard toys that may cause the acrylic splint to become dislodged. Feed your dog only soft food until your vet recommends returning to hard food again. Once the vet 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 vet will remove the splint. 

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

Prognosis After a Jaw Fracture Repair 

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

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

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

Right after your dog's jaw surgery, 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. 

Once your vet feels that your dog has healed enough to begin eating they will prescribe pain medications for your pup that will be strong enough to allow your pet to eat soft foods without pain. Canned food or softened kibble should be fine, your vet will recommend the best food to feed your dog during their recovery.

You may be asked to monitor your dog's eating so that you can let your vet know if your pup isn't eating as much as they should. Some dogs may find it easier to eat smaller more frequent meals if your schedule allows. It is also a good idea to keep an eye on your dog's weight. If your four-legged friend begins losing weight, contact your vet for advice on how to coax your dog to eat more.

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 has a broken jaw? It's important to get your pup emergency veterinary care. Contact our 24/7 emergency vets in Turlock right away. We can diagnose and treat jaw fractures in dogs.

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Taylor Veterinary Emergency is accepting new patients! Our experienced Turlock vets are passionate about the health of cats and dogs. Get in touch today to book your first appointment.

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