A dislocated jaw in dogs is a condition that will require veterinary attention to fix as there is really nothing that can be done at home. A dislocated jaw in dogs is very painful and many dogs will dislike having their jaw manipulated in any way. Just as it happens in humans, dogs may suffer from conditions that predispose their jaws to dislocations and therefore a dislocated jaw may occur as a secondary problem arising from a primary condition that may need to be addressed to prevent any similar future happenings.
Dislocated Jaw in Dogs
A dog's jaws comprise the upper jaw, medically known as the maxilla, and the lower jaw, medically known as the mandible. It is thanks to the dog's temporomandibular joint (TMJ) that the dog's lower jaw (mandible) connects to to the skull (temporal bone).
When intact, and in correct position, the temporomandibular joint acts as a hinge equipped with a special gliding mechanism.
A dislocated jaw occurs when there is dislocation of the dog's mandibular condyle from the groove found in the temporal bone causing the unhinging of the jaw joint. A dislocation of an anatomical part is often medically referred to as a luxation.
A dislocated jaw in dogs may occur as a result of some traumatic injury such as from accidental falls, being hit by car, chewing on something hard, or sometimes, even yawning in predisposed dogs suffering from a malformation of the temporomandibular joint.
In some dogs, arthritis may cause changes up to the point of causing the jaw to be fused closed, explains veterinarian Dr. Olja Jovovich. As dogs age, the jaw tendons and ligaments responsible for holding things in place may weaken and degenerate up to the point that even a relatively small amount of stress may cause looseness and a potential dislocation to take place.
Signs of a Dislocated Jaw in Dogs
When a dog dislocates a jaw, the problem is often visible when inspecting the jaw. In a dog with a dislocated jaw, the mandible may shift laterally and there may be more motility. The teeth may not line up as they should.
Care must be taken in inspecting the jaw, as dogs with a dislocated jaw may be in significant pain and may therefore be reluctant to having their jaw handled.
Because in a dog with a dislocated jaw, the upper and lower jaw may not align correctly, affected dogs may be unable to close their mouths fully. This may lead to drooling and trouble eating.
In some dogs, a discoloration of the skin in the back of the mouth may be noticed, This discoloration arises from bleeding underneath the skin (ecchymosis).
Pain and discomfort is common in a dog with a dislocated jaw. Dogs may manifest pain in different ways. Affected dogs may whine and scratch at their face. In some dogs, the jaw may also tremble.
At the Vet's Office
A dog with a dislocated jaw should receive immediate vet attention because it's a painful condition but also because when treatment is delayed, swelling may set in which contributes to making problems worse.
The vet will examine your dog, take a look at the jaw and will likely recommend getting x-rays done.
Getting the x-rays is helpful because it can help the vet see if there are any tiny fractures, presence of arthritis or even signs of potential bone cancer of the jaw.
Fixing a dislocated jaw requires sedation and a specific manipulation of the jaw. This is quite a quick procedure, but not all general practice veterinarians will feel comfortable doing this. The technical term for fixing a dislocated jaw is known as "reduction."
Incorrect manipulations may lead to complications and re-occurrences. Some vets may therefore prefer to refer to a board-certified dental specialist.
"Dr. Kressin frequently receives calls from veterinarians stating that animals with TMJ luxation were simple to reduce, but they "re-luxated" nearly immediately after reduction. Consideration of the anatomy is needed to understand the TM joint. The instability of the joint is the cause for reoccurance of luxation. "~ Animal Dentistry & Oral Surgery Specialists LLC
Fixing a Dislocated Jaw in Dogs
The specialist may use a pencil and gentle leverage forces to fix the dislocation. Afterward, the specialist may recommend using a tape muzzle for a few days up to a few weeks so to stabilize and prevent the dog from widely opening of the mouth.
In some complicated cases, the affected dog may require surgery to fix the dislocation to set the dog's temporomandibular joint back into normal position.
As the dog recovers, a soft diet may be offered to reduce discomfort and pain. Crunchy kibble should be avoided to avoid impairments in the healing process. Offering moist food mixed with water is helpful so the dog can lap it up without being forced to chew.
Recovery from a dislocated jaw may take some time as the dog's muscles, tendons and ligaments tighten back up and become stable enough to effectively hold the jaw in place.
- DVM360: Managing TMJ in companion animals
- My Pet's Dentist: Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Problems
- Veterinary Information Network:Temporomandibular Joint Diseases in Dogs and Cats