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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.

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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Chrissy

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Domestic shorthair

dog-age-icon

8 Years

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Serious severity

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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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0 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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Chrissy

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Domestic shorthair

dog-age-icon

8 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Can'T Close Mouth

My cat's jaw was injured by my dog a few months ago. It seemed like it had healed by itself, just shifted to the side, but she was eating fine and we can't afford to bring her to a check up, so we left her alone. Yesterday we saw that she couldn't close her mouth anymore. She cannot move her mandible so she can't chew food. She can move her tongue but it is very difficult for her to drink water or eat wet food, I have yet to see her succeed. We cannot pay for a visit to the vet. Are there any home remedies to try out? I am extremely worried that she will die of dehydration.

July 16, 2018

Chrissy's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

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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Gilly

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domestic short hair

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2 Days

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Fair severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Open Mouth

My cats mouh have been open for about 5 days. She still is friendly, eats, and drinks. It doesn’t seem to bother her too much. Usually her mouth is closed though.she can still clean herself and her tongue isn’t sticking out. It has happened once in the past and since besides after a few days, but I think this time it is lasting longer, and starting to concern me.

May 30, 2018

Gilly's Owner

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Without examining Gilly, I cannot start to determine a cause; it may be due to a disorder of the temporomandibular joint, nerve damage, dental disorders, Flehmen response among other causes. If the mouth isn’t normally open and it is now always open you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination to be on the safe side so that the cause can be identified and treated. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 31, 2018

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Sherm

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Cat

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9 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Not Grooming
Growling
Loss Of Mass
Locking Jaw,
Locking Jaw, Pain

My 9 year old siamese has locking jaw, weight loss and isn't grooming himself well. Vet did x-rays and send them off for a second opinion, but there is no sign of erosion of TMJ. Ears looks good, he has his check ups and is healthy other some eye discharge. He had a few bad teeth extracted and has been on long term treatment with meloxicam, things are not getting better. Mt vet is suggesting a CT scan of TMJ...... any other ideas?

April 21, 2018

Sherm's Owner

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0 Recommendations

You didn’t mention whether the jaw is locking open or closed; the most common cause of jaw locking (when open) is due to a subluxation of the temporomandibular joint where it locks into place, another causes may be due to anatomical anomalies but generally these would have been detected earlier in life. I cannot say what the specific cause is, but if x-rays have been unproductive then a CT or MRI may help. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

April 22, 2018

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Oreo

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DOMESTIC

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6 Months

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

No Appetite, Lost Of Weight

Hi, 6 months old kitten. He is being lethargic, and eats a little. He is losing weight, don't play . I took him to the vet and he noticed what it looks like he is having problem when he open and close his mouth? His blood analysis shows High WBC , High Neutrophil and low globulin. He was prescribed antibiotic but is being 4 days and he still weak and without appetite.

March 3, 2018

Oreo's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Without examining Oreo I cannot determine what the cause of the issue is; joint disorders, masticatory muscle issues, dental issues among other problems may be causing problems when opening and closing the mouth. A thorough examination would be useful along with an x-ray of the joints either side to look for any issues. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

March 3, 2018

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Loki

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SHORT HAIRED CAT

dog-age-icon

6 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Eating Slowly Not Grooming Herself

My 6 month old kitten was bitten by my dog but no signs of any trauma sites just a little shook up. Anyhow weeks later she started to look like she was choking now and again on her wet food and clawing at her mouth. Very strange anyhow we took her the vet and the vet did an X-ray day it’s a jaw fracture but her jaw is fused together and said the only option is to put her to sleep?

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Kitten

dog-breed-icon

Unknown. Shorthair

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3 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Some children brought a very small (1 month?) old kitten to my door a month ago. They had found it lying in the middle af the main road. An initial visit to the vet revealed everything OK but fleas and worms ++ which were treated. However, the vet had great difficulty opening the kitten's mouth and couldn't fully do so. The kitten started having very strong digestive pains (huge full-body spasms requiring morphine) and copious drooling in the night after eating. It soon became obvious that he couldn't in fact open his mouth more than 5mm. An emergecncy vet was called who diagnosed feline influenza and gave an anti-viral, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory/analgesic treatment. He couldn't open the cat's mouth enough to really see inside. The next day the kitten was much better but the problem kept reccuring. A third vet (who couldn't open the kitten's mouth) tried a cortisone treatment thinking it might be a problem in the tempero-mandibular muscles but the jaw problem persisted. Four days ago a veterinarian who also uses osteopathy spent 1 hour with the kitten.She thught some sort of physical trauma was the cause.It was worse then ever that night and the kitten was very tired and unwell looking for two days (the vet had warned me about this). Now it seems fine but the jaw still seems to be locked so I can only feed it soft food which it takes ages to ingest, and that in small quantities to prevent further abdominal pain.I'm due to phone back the osteopathic veterinarian tomorrow. Any thoughts?

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Murphy

dog-breed-icon

tabby

dog-age-icon

14 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Pain In Right Side Tmj

Noted pawing at right side of mouth two weeks ago. He then began to cry out loud intermittently while eating, dashing off to hide and leaving his food. Took him to vet who gave a visual look at teeth and gums which looked fine. Sedated next day with facial x-ray. Nothing abnormal spotted. Last two days would hardly eat and slept most of the time, hidden behind bed. Reluctant and withdrawn to any touch or approach. Took him back to Vet today who gave him further health check but found him to wince in pain when touch or pressure was applied to the right side of his jaw. Vet is convinced this is a neurological pain and will monitor how he fares over next 48 hours having been given a metacam injection. Meanwhile liquidising his food. Research does not show me how such a neurological issue would be dealt with.

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Knox

dog-breed-icon

Domestic Mancoon

dog-age-icon

2 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Eye Redness
Jaw Chattering
Leg Swelling
Jaw Luxation

My cat was missing for 4 days and showed up last night. His Jaw is offcentered, his legs are all tore up and one of his eyes looks like it may be infected. We can’t afford to go to the vet but we would really like to know what to do? He struggles with eating and hasn’t pooped or peed in 12 ish hours. Should we consider putting him down? We suspect he may have been kicked by a horse.

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Rico

dog-breed-icon

mixed

dog-age-icon

7 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Charlie Horse
Charlie Horse.
Jaw Issue

Hi, I have a seven year old male cat. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed he landed strangely from maybe a foot and a half up. When I walked over to him he laid stiff (throughout his entire body) on the ground and had a slow reaction to me calling him. This lasted about 5-10 seconds. Afterwards he eased up and carried on. Last week I noticed he was having jaw issues for maybe twenty minutes straight. He was licking his chops and what seemed to me, repositioning his jaw repeatedly. Soon after he left and began meowing, but it didn't sound right. I called him and he came to me and almost immediately had the same symptoms as the first episode. He was very stiff (mostly in his rear leg) and had what appeared to be a charlie horse. This lasted a few minutes. Immediately after, he began running and playing around the house as if nothing happened. Since that episode, he's acted fine. The only noticeable thing that has been occurring is this jaw issue. He opens and "repositions" it quite frequently. Any idea what's going on with my little buddy?

Temporomandibular Joint Disorders Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$500

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