Upper and Lower Jaw Fracture in Cats

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Key takeaways

Jaw fractures are a common presentation in cats, and often result from direct trauma such as car accidents, falling from a height, weakening of the jaw due to bone infection, or tumors.

  • Typical symptoms include oral pain, swelling, reduced ability to eat food, and oral or nasal discharge which is often blood-tinged
  • Diagnosis of jaw fractures involves physical examination and diagnostic imaging
  • Treatment involves pain relief, anti-inflammatories, and assisted feeding, alongside conservative or surgical management of the fracture
  • Prognosis varies depending on the location and severity of the fracture 
  • Minor fractures often respond well to conservative or surgical management and recover completely
  • Fractures resulting from severe trauma, infection, or tumors are difficult to treat and sometimes result in life-threatening complications or euthanasia
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A closer look: Upper and Lower Jaw Fracture in Cats


The jaw bones support the teeth and are involved in chewing food. The upper jaw bones are called the maxilla and the lower jaw bones are called the mandibles. Any type of feline fractures warrant prompt medical attention. Jaw fractures in cats are painful and can impede normal chewing and eating, leading to further discomfort and more severe symptoms.

Jaw fractures occur at multiple different sites including:

  • Lower jaw (mandible)
  • Upper jaw (maxilla)
  • Traumatic cleft palate
  • Cheek bone (zygomatic arch)

Some jaw fractures are difficult to treat, such as fractures secondary to other conditions like infection or tumors, or severe traumatic injury. These cases sometimes result in prolonged recovery times, or euthanasia in severe cases.

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Risk factors


Jaw fractures are a common condition in cats and are usually treatable with either conservative or surgical management. Indoor cats are much less likely to have injuries resulting in jaw fractures.

Symptoms vary depending on the location and severity of the fracture. Mandibular fractures are more likely to present with deformity, incorrect alignment of the face, dropping of the lower jaw, and inability to close the mouth. Maxillary fractures often have concurrent injury, such as nasal trauma and injury to the cleft palate.

Possible causes


Traumatic injuries are a common cause of jaw fractures in pets. Examples of common feline injuries include:

  • Car accident
  • High-rise injury (falling from a height)
  • Bites from a larger animal
  • Blunt force trauma

In addition, certain conditions can lead to jaw injuries and fragile bones, which can progress to fractures.

Main symptoms


Symptoms of jaw fractures include:

  • Visible facial deformity or malalignment of the jaw
  • Oral pain
  • Oral bleeding
  • Nasal bleeding
  • Soft tissue swelling and bruising around the face and mouth
  • Reluctance or inability to eat
  • Difficulty opening or closing the mouth
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Difficulty swallowing

Testing and diagnosis


Diagnosis of jaw fractures involves

  • Complete physical and oral examination
  • Neurologic examination
  • Blood work
  • X-rays
  • CT scan
  • Biopsy if tumors are suspected

Steps to Recovery


There are two types of treatment options, conservative and surgical:.

Conservative includes:

  • External support, such as tape muzzles to stabilize the jaw until it heals

Surgical includes:

  • Fracture repair - bone plates, wiring, acrylic splinting
  • Cleft palate repair
  • Extraction of damaged teeth
  • Partial removal of the upper or lower jaw in cases of severe trauma or pathological fractures

Patients undergoing both conservative and surgical treatment require supportive care, particularly since they are often unable to eat. Supportive care may include:

  • Pain relief
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Antibiotics
  • Appetite stimulants
  • Fluid therapy
  • Assisted feeding - feeding tubes, soft or liquid diets

Prognosis depends on severity and location of the fracture, as well as age and overall health.

Common, minor fractures in young cats, such as separation of the midline of the lower jaw, normally respond well to treatment and heal without complications.

Following stabilization, cats often continue to struggle with eating. In these cases, prolonged hospitalization, or management with feeding tubes may be required at home for several weeks until completion of fracture healing and removal of the implants.

Senior cats with pathological fractures from infection or tumors, or cats with severe facial trauma from a car accident, have a guarded prognosis,in some cases humane euthanasia is considered.

Prevention


Prevention involves limiting access to dangerous activities such as hunting and climbing.

Is Upper and Lower Jaw Fracture in Cats common?


Jaw fractures are common in cats.

Typical Treatment


  • External support
  • Surgical repair
  • Supportive care
  • Treatment of underlying conditions

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