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What are Temporomandibular Joint Disorders?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) in cats is where the temporal and mandible bones of the jaw meet to form the hinged part of the jaw. Disorders of the TMJ may range in severity. There are no breed, sex, or age predispositions for most TMJ disorders. Jaw locking that occurs as a result of congenital defect is more commonly diagnosed in brachycephalic breeds such as the Himalayan and Persian.

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Temporomandibular Joint Disorders Average Cost

From 327 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$500

Symptoms of Temporomandibular Joint Disorders in Cats

TMJ disorders may be very painful for your cat and can affect their eating habits significantly. Seek immediate veterinary attention as soon as you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Inability to close or open the mouth
  • Part of the jaw shifting to the side
  • Signs of muscle atrophy and other facial deformities
  • Loss of appetite/unwillingness to eat or drink
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at the face
  • Excessive meowing

Types 

There are several types of TMJ disorders in cats, including, but not limited to:

  • Luxation or subluxation:

    This occurs when the joint becomes fully or partially dislocated.

  • Open-mouth jaw locking:

    Jaw locking is typically caused by luxation or subluxation. Episodes of jaw locking may be random, and will typically occur more frequently if left untreated. Jaw locking can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour.

  • TMJ ankylosis:

    This disorder will render the cat unable to fully or partially open its mouth. Ankylosis is most commonly caused by trauma, infection, or disease.

  • Masticatory muscle myositis:

    This is an inflammatory condition that affects the muscles the cat uses to chew food. Masticatory muscle myositis will cause those muscles to swell, creating difficulty in opening the mouth.

  • Ear inflammation:

    In severe cases of ear inflammation – particularly those in which the ear canal is perforated – the disorder may affect the TMJ.

  • Tympanic bulla neoplasia:

    Cancer of the middle ear is a very rare condition in most species, but can cause inflammation of the TMJ. Cats with this type of cancer may have a history of chronic ear infection.

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Causes of Temporomandibular Joint Disorders in Cats

The causes of TMJ disorders in cats depend on which type of disorder a cat is suffering from. Causes may include:

  • Accidental trauma
  • Congenital defect
  • Cancer
  • Infection
  • Secondary disease

The causes of some conditions of the TMJ – notably masticatory muscle myositis – are not fully understood.

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Diagnosis of Temporomandibular Joint Disorders in Cats

Your vet will first perform a thorough physical examination. You should let your vet know how long your cat has been experiencing any symptoms. X-rays are generally required in order to make a definitive diagnosis. CT scans may also be beneficial for diagnosing certain types of TMJ disorders. If cancer is suspected, cytology or biopsy may be performed to confirm the diagnosis.  Additional diagnostic testing may be recommended based on the suspected underlying cause.

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Treatment of Temporomandibular Joint Disorders in Cats

Treatment will vary depending on the severity and type of TMJ disorder your cat is suffering from. Your vet will be able to advise you on a treatment plan based on your cat’s specific needs.

Conservative treatment can cure certain TMJ diseases, including luxation/subluxation, ear inflammation, and masticatory muscle myositis. Luxation/subluxation may be resolved quickly by manually manipulating the jaw back into place. Ear inflammation may be treated with antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, or antihistamines.

Prednisone medications are typically prescribed in cats suffering from masticatory muscle myositis. Treatment may last from two months to eight months. Cancer of the middle ear may also be treated conservatively with several lymphotoxic drugs.

For cases of acute jaw locking, your cat may be anesthetized while your vet manually shifts the jaw back into place. However, there is a chance the locking can recur in the future whenever the cat opens its mouth wide. If your cat suffers from frequent jaw locking episodes, surgical removal of part of the zygomatic arch is generally the treatment of choice. Cancer of the inner ear may also be treated with surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy depending on owner and veterinary preferences.

Surgical correction may be required for ankylosis, recurrent luxation/subluxation of the TMJ, and severe cases of chronic ear infection.

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Recovery of Temporomandibular Joint Disorders in Cats

Recovery and prognosis may vary depending on the severity and underlying cause of TMJ disorders. Your vet will provide you with comprehensive aftercare instructions following treatment.

If your cat has had surgery, ensure they have a warm, safe place to rest on the return home. Do not allow them to irritate the surgery site. If their jaw injury was the result of trauma, you may want to limit their outdoor activity.

Your vet may schedule follow-up appointments as needed to monitor the condition. Due to the nature of TMJ disorders, the likelihood of recurrence is generally high. If the condition recurs, contact your vet immediately.

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Temporomandibular Joint Disorders Average Cost

From 327 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$500

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Temporomandibular Joint Disorders Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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cat

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Eleven Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Tmj

Clide had an infection in his mouth,upon taking him to the vet she removed 4 of his teeth and put him on several antibiotics, the swelling in his jaw would not go down upon doing a cat scan,the vet said the infection was very bad and did a culture to find out what Antibiotics to use after having to leave Clide ther to administer the antibiotics twice a day and also giving him Laser treatments 10 days ,when picking him back up the vet stated he had TmJ know he cant open his mouth at all so we are feeding him senior cat food by inserting a big syrenge a few times a day ,hes hungry but cant eat

Aug. 31, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, there may be something that can be done so that he can open his mouth. Your vet can also put in a feeding tube to make it easier for your to feed him. He may not be getting enough food and that is why he is hungry.

Sept. 1, 2021

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Chrissy

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Domestic shorthair

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8 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Can'T Close Mouth

My cat's jaw was injured by my dog a few months ago. It seemed to have healed on its own, just shifted a bit to the side. She was eating fine and we couldn't afford a vet visit so we left it alone. Yesterday we found that she couldn't close her mouth or move her mandible at all. . She can move her tongue but it is extremely difficult for her to drink water and eat food. I am afraid she will die of dehydration before anything. Are there any home remedies to attempt? Her mouth is hanging wide open.

July 16, 2018

Chrissy's Owner

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1 Recommendations

Without examining Chrissy I cannot determine the severity of the injury or what the specific cause is; temporomandibular joint issues, nerve damage, fractures among other causes may be causing difficulty for Chrissy. There is nothing over the counter I can recommend for her and I recommend you visit a Veterinarian regardless of cost, a delay in treatment may have resulted in a less favourable prognosis. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 16, 2018

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Temporomandibular Joint Disorders Average Cost

From 327 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$500

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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