It can be a very painful and scary experience for your dog if they suffer a broken jawbone. Today, our O’Fallon vets explain the causes of a broken jaw in dogs, how the injury can be repaired, and how to care for your pet after this injury.
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 increase the likelihood of a dog suffering a jaw fracture. The bone loss weakens the mandible, making it more prone to fracture when a dog does something as simple as bumping into furniture, chewing on a toy, or biting down on a piece of 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. 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. The main goal of treatment is to make sure that the teeth line up correctly.
After an acrylic splint is applied, your pet must refrain from chewing on toys or anything hard for several weeks. Remove any hard toys that could cause the acrylic splint to become dislodged. Feed only soft food until your veterinarian says it's okay for them to eat hard food again. Once the doctor believes the fracture site has healed, a second brief anesthesia is administered to confirm healing with x-rays. The splint is removed once the fracture has healed.
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
With a few exceptions, the prognosis for jaw fracture repair ranges from good to excellent. Maxillary fractures are relatively stable and have a good prognosis. Mandibular fracture prognosis is more variable and heavily influenced by the cause(s) of the fracture (s). Mandibular fractures caused by minor trauma, such as a minor fall, have a favorable 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 repair of the fracture, your veterinarian will provide detailed instructions for your dog's home care. Patients must be restrained and kept on a leash to prevent them from running, playing, or jumping around during the healing process. 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, regardless of the repair technique used.
How to Feed a Dog With a Broken Jaw
A feeding tube may be required at first to help them adjust to their new situation. Feeding tubes may seem frightening to pet owners, but most patients adjust quickly and tolerate the feeding tube very well. Detailed feeding tube instructions, including how to use it, care for it, and specific feeding instructions, are always fully explained and written down for your convenience.