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Broken Jaws in Dogs: Causes & Treatments

Like other broken bones, jaw fractures can happen when it's least expected and usually through an accident or trauma. Here, our Montecito vets talk about what happens when a dog has a broken jaw and how surgery can be used to repair the damage.

What causes broken jaws in dogs?

Dogs may sustain a mandibular fracture, commonly known as a broken jaw, either through trauma or periodontal disease. Traumatic incidents, such as being hit by a car or engaging in a fight with another dog, can lead to broken jaws in dogs.

Innocuous activities like chewing on a toy or biting down on food can lead to jawbone fractures due to the weakened strength caused by periodontal disease.

Promptly checking for other potential injuries is crucial if your dog experiences vehicular trauma or a dogfight. If your dog experiences a fracture, it is important to promptly take them to the vet or seek emergency care. The fracture should be addressed once your dog has been stabilized.

Why is it important to treat a broken jaw?

When your dog experiences a jaw fracture, our main goal during surgery is to promptly relieve any discomfort, ensuring that your dog can eat and rest comfortably. Improper healing of the upper or lower jaw can result in problems with teeth alignment. Preventing harm to the nerves and blood vessels in the jaw is crucial.

By treating the broken jaw, we can help your dog feel better and regain the function of their mouth.

How to Feed a Dog With a Broken Jaw

Feeding a dog with a broken jaw requires some adjustments to ensure their comfort and proper nutrition. We recommend soft or liquid-based food, such as wet canned food or a specially formulated soft diet. It may be necessary to blend or puree the food to make it easier for the dog to eat. 

Some dogs may be unable to eat on their own after veterinary surgery for jaw repair. These dogs will need the help of a syringe or feeding tube for providing meals.

What are the treatment options for a dog with a broken jaw?

In many instances of dogs experiencing a broken jaw, a vet may recommend treatment with surgery. In these cases, surgeons frequently use metal plates, screws, and wires. However, less severe fractures can be treated with acrylic splints, which provide a simpler procedure without the requirement for complex surgery. Proper alignment of the teeth is the main goal.

After the splint is put in place, your pet needs to avoid chewing on hard objects for a few weeks. Furthermore, it is recommended to provide them with soft food until the vet authorizes a transition back to a hard food diet. You can remove the splint once the fracture has completely healed. Another anesthetized procedure may be required to remove the wire or splint, if necessary.

What to Expect After Treating a Dog's Broken Jaw

In most cases, repairing jaw fractures is highly effective, although there are a few exceptions. Maxillary fractures typically exhibit stability and yield favorable outcomes. However, the prognosis for mandibular fractures can be more uncertain, depending on the cause of the injury.

If the cause behind the broken jaw is a simple fall or accident, you will likely be able to expect a pretty good prognosis. However, older dogs with small size and dental issues may have a more challenging recovery if they sustain a jaw break during surgery. Recovery depends on the severity of the injury, any damage to the blood supply, and the presence of bacterial infection.

How should you take care of your dog after jaw surgery?

After repairing the broken bone, your vet will give you home care instructions for your dog. Make sure to confine your dog and use a leash to prevent any activities that could potentially cause more harm.

Furthermore, it may be beneficial to feed your dog a soft diet or paste food to reduce the amount of pressure exerted on the healing bone. At first, your dog may need a feeding tube, which can be a bit daunting. However, dogs usually adjust quickly and handle it well.

Don't fret too much about this part of the recovery process. Your vet will provide complete instructions for the use and care of your dog's feeding tube.

Are there any potential complications with jaw surgery for dogs?

All surgical procedures come with some degree of risk. By following your vet's pre- and post-op care recommendations you can help to diminish this risk.

One of the most common complications that can be easily avoided is infection. While the possibility of occurrence is lowered with proper care and medications during recovery, you should still be aware of the signs (such as redness, swelling, and more.) and contact your vet if you have any concerns.

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.

If your dog has just had jaw surgery and you have questions about how to care for them, please contact Montecito vets today.

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