The jaw is one of the most common bone breakages to occur in cats. Most broken jaws occur as a result of a serious trauma such as a car accident, gunshot wound, kick or a fall from a height, resulting in the cat smashing his jaw on the ground. Bone cancer, bone infection, hyperparathyroidism and gum disease can all weaken the bones, leading to a broken jaw.
The jaw comes together in two parts, the upper jaw (maxilla) and the lower jaw (mandible). Two bones make up the mandible, joined along the midline, which run from front to back. Both the upper and the lower jaw can break and a fracture can occur anywhere along the jaw, often the lower jaw will split along the midline. Breaks can be classified as open or closed, open breaks are where the bone protrudes through the skin and closed are where the skin remains intact over the break. Open breaks are common with jaw fractures as there is not much tissue surrounding the jaw bones.
- Reluctance to eat due to pain
- Unable to open or close the mouth
- Bruising, swelling and tenderness of the affected area
- Facial deformity
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Broken or lost teeth
Other symptoms such as bad breath or drooling may be present if the break occurred due to a non-traumatic injury.
Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination of your cat, and carefully assess the mouth and jaw. Many broken jaws can be diagnosed based on presenting symptoms, however, facial x-rays will be necessary if the fracture is closed and to assess the extent of the break.
Other diagnostic tests will be necessary to assess the overall health of your cat and to evaluate for internal injuries, which may include biochemical profile, complete blood count, and urinalysis along with ultrasound or x-ray of the chest and abdomen.
- Surgery to repair and realign a broken jaw. If a midline fracture has occurred, your veterinarian will wire the two sides back together. A front to back break will require wiring or plating to hold the pieces together.
- Placement of a feeding tube to provide nutrition until the cat is able to eat on his own.
- Treat other injuries where necessary as damage to the soft tissues surrounding the jaw is common, which will require treatment to remove debris and clean the area to prevent infection.
- Address and treating the underlying cause, such as gum disease or hyperparathyroidism. Oral cancer is a particularly invasive cancer, which can quickly spread to local tissues, including the jawbones. If the cancer is in the front portion of the lower jaw, surgical removal may be possible. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy may be necessary as a follow-up.
Your veterinarian will prescribe painkillers and antibiotics to manage pain and prevent/treat bacterial infection, administer as directed.
Confine your cat during recovery, which will take several weeks.
Repeat x-rays will be required after several weeks to check your cat’s progress.