A broken jawbone can cause your dog a lot of pain and fear. In this blog, our Tri-County Animal Clinic veterinarians discuss what leads to a broken jaw in dogs, the treatments available, and how to look after your pet during recovery.
Causes of a Broken Jaw in Dogs
Mandibular fractures tend to occur because of trauma or as a result of periodontal disease. Common traumatic events include a dog being struck by a car or an altercation with another dog.
Periodontal disease can cause a dog to be more likely to suffer a jaw fracture. The bone loss weakens the mandible, predisposing it to fracture when a dog does something as simple as bumping into furniture, chewing on one of its toys, or even biting down on a piece of food.
If your pet experiences a car accident or a fight with another dog, it's crucial to get them thoroughly checked for more injuries. As soon as you notice a fracture or if your pet is in an accident, it's recommended to take them to the vet to seek urgent veterinary help. The jaw fracture can be treated after stabilizing your pet and addressing any other injuries.
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. It is very important to avoid injury to the tooth roots and the neurovascular (nerve and blood vessels) bundle within the mandibular or infraorbital canals. The ultimate goal is to successfully repair the fracture and get your dog back on its feet.
Treating Jaw Fractures in Dogs
Repairing a jaw fracture with metal plates, screws, and wires is sometimes required to treat a broken jaw, but some fractures can be treated with acrylic splints. Splints are much simpler to place and, in many cases, do not require a complicated surgical incision. Treatment's main goal is to ensure the teeth line up correctly.
After putting on the acrylic splint, make sure your pet avoids chewing on thought objects or toys for a few weeks. Keep away any hard toys that might move or damage the splint. Feed them only soft food until your vet gives the go-ahead to resume eating hard food. Once the vet sees the fractures have healed, a quick second anesthesia is needed to confirm this with X-rays. If the fracture is fully healed, the splint can be taken off.
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.
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.
At first, your pet might need a feeding tube as they get used to their new situation. Although feeding tubes might worry pet owners, most pets adjust fast and handle the tube well. You'll always receive clear and detailed instructions on how to use, care for, and feed through the tube.