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What are Upper and Lower Jaw Fractures?

Both upper and lower jaw fractures are very painful for the cat and they require immediate treatment. The lower jaw is more susceptible to fractures as it is made up of of two bones that have fused together, a process called symphysis. Often, because jaw fractures are linked with major trauma, the cat will be suffering from other, more serious injuries such as bruising of the lungs, punctured lungs or bruising of the heart. The jaw fracture in itself may be life threatening, as most cats will refuse to eat due to significant mouth pain.

Upper and lower jaw fractures generally happen when a cat’s jaw is subjected to blunt force or trauma. This can cause the fragile mandible (lower jaw) or the more sturdy maxilla (upper jaw) to fracture. Any type of break is classified as a fracture. It can be as small as a hairline crack or as devastating as a severe comminution (a bone shatter). Your cat may only have subtle swelling, or its entire mouth may hang open.

Upper and Lower Jaw Fractures Average Cost

From 383 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,800

Symptoms of Upper and Lower Jaw Fractures in Cats

The following list shows all possible symptoms for both upper and lower jaw fractures. Please note that while some fractures are visibly obvious, others can be harder to recognize, especially in maxilla (upper jaw) fractures. All fractures need immediate veterinary care.

  • Reluctance or refusal to eat
  • Swelling around the mouth
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Wounds in or around the mouth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Jaw misalignment
  • A mouth that hangs open or can not close at all
  • Other trauma on body (from original blunt force that has caused the jaw fracture)

Types

Jaw fractures in cats are generally classified as either favorable or unfavorable, depending on the severity of the fracture and the general healing success associated with it.

Favorable

If the fracture has not caused the jaw to move out of place, it is referred to as a favorable fracture. Fractures of the maxilla (upper jaw) are often favorable.

Unfavorable 

If the fracture has caused jaw displacement, it is referred to as an unfavorable fracture. This includes situations where the fracture is exacerbated by the mouth muscles, and when the fracture runs perpendicular to the mandible (lower jaw). Mandible fractures are generally unfavorable.

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Causes of Upper and Lower Jaw Fractures in Cats

Upper and lower jaw fractures are very common occurrences in cats. Jaw fractures are most commonly the outcome of impact injuries. These include but are not limited to:

  • Being hit by an automobile
  • Fights with other animals
  • Attacks from other animals (especially large dogs)
  • Falls from great heights

When injury is not the cause, the cause is generally one of the following:

  • Tooth decay
  • Metabolic disease
  • Cancer (or cancerous tumors)
  • Tooth extraction complications

It is important to note that these issues are seen much more often in older cats than in younger cats.

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Diagnosis of Upper and Lower Jaw Fractures in Cats

All fractures need professional care to ensure that quality of life is restored as best as possible for the cat. Once at the veterinary clinic, your vet will most likely take the following steps:

Immediate Pain Relief 

Most jaw fractures are extremely painful, and are often paired with other, very serious, injuries. Generally, before any tests are run your vet will sedate or anesthetize your cat to give it some relief while also providing the best conditions for assessment.

Visual Assessment

The vet will then look for any and all external wounds or swelling to locate the main fractures. Often, because the jaw has such little flesh, the bone may be protruding from the skin.

Injury Severity Assessment 

Before any tests can be done, the vet has to ensure that your cat's condition is stable. This is especially true when the cat is suffering from multiple injuries, or there is significant blood loss.

Diagnostic Imaging

 

The vet will take either X-ray (radiography) images or complete a CT (computer tomography) scan. They serve the same purpose, however a CT scan combines X-ray images with computer technology to provide the most detailed view of the affected area. It does take more time and it is generally more expensive. CT scans are preferred when the injury or complication is severe.

Once your vet has collected all of this information, they will be able to diagnose which type of fracture has occurred and plan the next steps of action.

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Treatment of Upper and Lower Jaw Fractures in Cats

The treatment needed for jaw fractures in cats is very dependent on what type of fracture is present. The most common procedures are listed below:

External Immobilization

The affected bones are aligned properly and then secured by a muzzle. The muzzle is administered using either a commercially produced mouth muzzle or medical tape. In less complicated fractures, this is sometimes all that is needed.

External Skeletal Fixation 

Pins are threaded through the skin into the bone while all being connected to an external rod or bumper bar which holds the jaw in place. It is a less invasive surgery in which all implants can be removed after healing has occurred. There is some postoperative care involved to remove the pins. This method is very effective in treating open mandibular body fractures.

Internal Reduction 

Bone plates and screws are placed surgically to secure bone pieces. They stay in the animal upon recovery. There is minimal postoperative care involved. This procedure is often used in repairing temporomandibular joint luxations (complete joint dislocation).

Interosseous or Interfragmentary Wiring 

A long, slender wire is inserted through the lower jaw but remains under the tongue and then protrudes back through to the underside of the jaw. It is then bent properly to prevent snagging.Postoperative care is required to remove the wire. This works to join two pieces of broken bone back together, especially in mandible symphysis breaks.

Interarcade Wiring 

The jaw is essentially wired shut to prevent movement and encourage proper alignment. The cat can only consume liquids and pureed foods throughout the healing process. A postoperative visit is required to remove the wire so the mouth can function again. This treatment is often used to correct a simple mandibular body fracture.

Interdental Wiring 

The wire is secured around the cat’s teeth to stabilize the realignment of the jaw. Wires will be removed at a later vet visit once the jaw has healed. This treatment is noninvasive.

Partial or Full Mandibulectomy

If the jaw is shattered beyond repair, or blood loss is too severe, mandibulectomy (amputation of the jaw) may be offered as a last resort attempt to save your cat's life. It is important to note that some cats will permanently refuse to eat after having this surgery, and the morbidity rates are high.

Feeding tubes may be used for a time with all of the above treatments.

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Recovery of Upper and Lower Jaw Fractures in Cats

Your cat should resume eating soft foods in one or two  days after being released from vet care. Pain medication is often prescribed to help your pet get through the recovery period. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are also given to help reduce swelling and general inflammation in the fracture area. Your vet may want to prescribe antibiotics, especially if there are any signs of infection after injury or surgery. You will need to limit your cat’s activity and discourage play throughout the time of recovery. If the cat has any external wiring, you will have to clean it and ensure no food remains attached to it to prevent dermatitis. If there are bandages, they may need to be changed. It is common to feel sadness or guilt over your cat’s injuries, especially if they are due to severe trauma that could have been prevented.

Certain complications can occur after your pet is discharged. They are:

  • Malocclusion (imperfect positioning) of teeth, which can discourage your cat from eating
  • Jaw dysfunction
  • Incomplete/delay/failure of bone healing
  • Tooth root injury
  • Osteomyelitis (inflammation of the bone)
  • Periodontal disease
  • Infection

Overall the prognosis is generally good, with most cats healing completely within 4-6 weeks. The cause of the fracture paired with the impact at which it happened usually determines the overall healing success.

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Upper and Lower Jaw Fractures Average Cost

From 383 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,800

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Upper and Lower Jaw Fractures 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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Nine Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Open Mouth Blood

Cat had got a small bite from dog. Slight puncture inside mouth and light bleeding. Cat tries to eat but hurts so he stops. Has mouth slightly open but no heavy breathing. Cat is sleeping and not in urgent pain. Unsure what to do.

July 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Dog bites can get quite an infected, quite quickly, and can cause problems. If your cat is painful to the point where it cannot eat, it would be best to have it seen by a veterinarian. They will be able to look at your cat, see what might be going on, and get medications so that your cat can heal and be healthy. I hope that all goes well for your cat.

July 29, 2020

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Gendai

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domestic short-haired

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4 Years

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Moderate severity

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Black Scab On Open Wou
Black Scab On Open WouNd

My cat came home with clean cut on his muzzle, it was like someone cut it with a scissor because no other scratch mark, no bleeding or swelling but it ripped open wide,you can see one of his fang. I boiled some water while he gobbled his wet food, good appetite as usual he even asked more. After the water cooled down, i cleaned the wound although no bleeding or swelling, since i don't have any medicine i put 2 drop of pure honey into his wound. The next day the wound dried, no swelling or redding, inside mouth no puss or swelling or redding, good appetite as usual, no fever. However the wound has horrible ugly black scab, I'm worried,can his upper lip can be closed again without stitches?

Sept. 10, 2018

Gendai's Owner

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Oliver

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Cat

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9 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Broken Jaw

My cat was very playful one day and jumping about, I noticed him licking his lip and drooling a little. I took him to my vet who said his jaw is broken but not displaced and should heal on its own. He seems fine and doesn't seem to have any pain (but I know cats hide their pain) but as a cat who only likes dry food - he does not like wet and my vet said only give him wet. I have tried many options but have only gotten him to eat tuna fish sometimes. Any advice? I'm worried.

Aug. 29, 2018

Oliver's Owner

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Diamond

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Domestic shorthair

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15 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Unable To Chew

Our cat Diamond had his jaw broken in 2 places in an argument with 2 bull terriers. Our vet operated and both wired and glued his jaw in place. He had a tube for feeding as well. After 4,5 weeks he started lapping at food himself. The wires, glue and tube were removed at 6 weeks and it was healed. He is still battling to eat 4 days after the removal. My vet did say it would take a few days but I was wondering if there is anything else I could do to help him regain the muscle strength? We are offering him soft minced food and water.

July 24, 2018

Diamond's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

With Diamond's injuries, the only thing that you can do is be very patient, and offer him soft food until he is eating normally on his own. That is a tremendous trauma, and the fact that he survived is impressive.

July 24, 2018

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Tigra

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tabby

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5 Months

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

I found nd a cat that has a problem with her breathing and her lower jaw, the vet said showed me scans that her lower jaw had been fused on one said and thus she can't open her mouth to allow a breathing tube to go in. How much would it cost to get her her mouth to open up again do you know?

July 21, 2018

Tigra's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

There are too many variables here for me to give you any meaningful ballpark, mainly your location as price varies from city to city, state to state and especially country to country; also the specific area affected and the specific nature of the fused jaw which is causing the problem would also vary the cost as the surgery may need to be done in one or two surgeries. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 22, 2018

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Argo

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DOMESTIC

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3 Days

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen
Click Noise

My cat got hit by a car a few days ago. He had a very very swollen face, a corneal ulcer, and a dislocated Jaw. He was very luck. He had no broken bones, and no lung damage. The poor thing had his jaw reset while it was still swollen. We took him home and noticed his jaw was clicking. He pawed at his face a lot and shook his head. It was obvious the Jaw was really bothering him. We took him back to the vet and the reset his jaw again. This time it is taped shut, with only a small opening for food and water. He also has to wear a cone. The poor kitty is miserable. His corneal ulcer is doing much better. When we brought him back to fix his Jaw, the vet examined his eye. She said she had never seen anything like it. She was blown away by how fast it had seemed to be healing. He gets to keep his eye! We go back today to check his jaw, and eye again. HHoprfully we will be able to stop some of the eye drops. I am worried about his Jaw though. He still tried to law at the jaw, he still shakes his head, and he now makes like a grinding clicking noise. Hopefully today the vet will be able to see what's going on with the jaw.

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Thomas

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Shelter cat

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19 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Dislocated Jaw, Drooling Blood

My cat is 18+ years old. He started drooling from the side of his mouth about 2 months ago and was really slowing down. I took him to the vet where he got a shot of B12 and some antibiotics. Now starting about 2 weeks ago his whole bottom jaw has dislocated to the side he isdrooling on. His appetite is good and after the B12 he is moving around better. I debate taking him in to vet who won't be able to stabilize him due to age, weight and health. I'm open to your thoughts as he does not seem to be in any pain whatsoever?

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Miles

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domestic short hair

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1 Year

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

Serious severity

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Fatigue, Unaiblity To Eat On Own.

My cat miles was hit by a car. The car was moving at a slower speed. We found him outside and he had blood coming from his mouth. He couldnt walk strait, and he was crying in pain.we broughth I'm int othe vet asap. He stayed at the vet for a week. He is now at home and seems to be healing very well.He is still drooling a lot and won't eat. I'm just curious on the time it takes for the fracture in his top jaw to heal. He walks around and it seems that he has no pain anywhere else. We keep cleaning him and offering puree food along with water.

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Mollycat

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Domestic shorthair

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9 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Rude Post

Attempts to post a reply RE Mollycat do not work, posting attempt here: These posts are old, but the responses from Maxine were totally uncalled for. Even if she were a vet (not likely), she did NOT examine this person's cat, she has NO idea what the extent of the injuries were and she has absolutely NO way to know if they were the same as your cat or what the outcome would be. Clearly the person was second-guessing at the time of the post, so it is clear that while they did what they thought was best for Mollycat, they are feeling bad - they don't need people like Maxine lambasting them for it. To Mollycat's owner - I feel your pain. I had to make the awful choice to let one cat go last year - different reason, but treatments were not working and he was clearly suffering at the time. I too am second-guessing that decision, but like you said, we can't bring them back now. As for whoever runs this site, allowing ANYONE to bad mouth others like this should not be allowed - most sites monitor posts and will take down those like this - Maxine's posts add VERY LITTLE to anyone's enlightenment and she unfairly disparages the original poster. THESE posts by judgmental Maxine should be TAKEN DOWN.

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Charlie

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Mixed black and white

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2 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Shock

Heard a loud noise a few nights ago, I ran out and found a coyote running down the street with our cat in his mouth. I ran after him and he dropped the cat and ran. He looked like he was slowly recovering from the attach and took to the vet today because he started stop healing. They are keeping him over night but reported he started to get an infection from what seamed to be a small hole near his ear and he has a fracture jaw. We won't know the extent of his fracture until tomorrow.

Upper and Lower Jaw Fractures Average Cost

From 383 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,800