Today, our team of veterinarians at Villa Rica will explain the causes of jaw injuries in dogs, elaborate on the methods for treatment and provide essential guidance on caring for your pet throughout its recovery process.
Causes Of A Broken Jaw In Dogs
Mandibular fractures commonly arise from two primary causes: trauma and periodontal disease. Traumatic events like car accidents or altercations with other dogs can lead to these fractures in dogs.
Periodontal disease also plays a significant role in making dogs more susceptible to jaw fractures. The gradual bone loss weakens the mandible, making it prone to fracturing even during seemingly innocuous activities such as bumping into furniture, chewing on toys, or biting down on food. It's important to be aware of these risk factors to ensure the well-being of your canine companion.
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 their feet.
Treating Jaw Fractures In Dogs
Treating a broken jaw often involves the use of metal plates, screws, wires, or acrylic splints, depending on the nature of the fracture. While some fractures necessitate the placement of metal hardware, others can be successfully managed with acrylic splints, which offer a simpler solution without requiring complex surgical incisions. The primary objective of treatment is to ensure proper alignment of the teeth.
Once an acrylic splint is in place, it is crucial to prevent your pet from chewing on hard objects for several weeks. Remove any hard toys that may dislodge the splint and provide only softened food until your veterinarian advises that it is safe to reintroduce hard food. Once the veterinarian determines that the fracture site has healed, a brief second anesthesia session is required to confirm healing through X-ray imaging. If the fracture has fully healed, the splint is removed.
In some cases, depending on the chosen method of repair, an additional anesthetized procedure may be scheduled to remove any wires or splints present 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 Post 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.
Initially, 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.