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What is Lockjaw?

A dog suffering from a locked jaw will be in obvious discomfort. Depending on the cause, there could be swelling and pain. In some cases, pets develop an atrophy of muscles and are unable to eat properly resulting in further complications. Many canines will not show signs of the various lockjaw conditions until there is evidence of a problem like visible pain, a shift in the bones, or paralysis to the jaw. Diagnosing the condition will place importance on the underlying cause for the lockjaw. The prognosis will depend on whether the lockjaw can be resolved; important factors are age, seriousness of the condition, and present health condition of your pet. There is no age, sex or breed predisposition though adult dogs seem to be affected more often.

A canine who has lockjaw has the inability to completely open or close his mouth. Illness, arthritis, tetanus and neurological disorders are just a few reasons why a dog may have this condition.

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Lockjaw Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $1,200 - $5,000

Average Cost

$1,800

Symptoms of Lockjaw in Dogs

There are many symptoms associated with the condition of lockjaw which can be secondary in nature. If your pet has any of the symptoms below or seems to have jaw discomfort, consult the veterinarian without delay.

  • Abnormal facial expression
  • Paralysis of facial expression
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Dehydration
  • Salivation
  • Inability or difficulty with opening the jaw
  • Inability to close the jaw
  • Masticatory muscle atrophy (may display as weakness when chewing or biting)
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Jawbone shift (may only be evident upon veterinarian examination)
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Causes of Lockjaw in Dogs

The condition of lockjaw can become debilitating in some instances. The inability to open or close the jaw can become progressive in nature, worsening in time. Some forms of the condition can have a regression of sorts, but relapse is very common.

  • Temporomandibular joint ankylosis - immobility and consolidation of the joint cause this painful condition which can lead to total inability to open the mouth

  • Temporomandibular joint luxation and dysplasia - abnormal separation in the joint
  • Trigeminal nerve paralysis - results in the inability to close the mouth causing difficulty in eating and drinking

  • Masticatory muscle myositis - swollen muscles create a difficulty in opening the jaw; this is an immune-mediated disorder
  • Neoplasia
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Tetanus
  • Systemic disorder like hypoadrenocorticism
  • Severe ear disease
  • Horner’s syndrome - this is a neurological disorder

  • Retrobulbar abscess - this is a canine ocular disease
  • Trauma to the mandibular bones
  • Central neurological lesions
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Diagnosis of Lockjaw in Dogs

Your veterinarian will begin the diagnostic process with a physical examination. Although care will be taken, physical manipulation to the jaw could cause pain for your pet. Of course, force will not be used, but the analysis of movement may be needed to determine the extent and type of lockjaw. Your pet could also be experiencing pain with the oral mucosa, teeth, ears or tongue that you may not be aware of.

Blood tests will be done and could show increased levels of muscle enzymes, the presence of autoantibodies which can change muscle fibers, or give an indication of tetanus. Underlying illnesses or malignant disease can also be evident after blood analysis. 

Further diagnostic tools can be radiographs, CT scan, and MRI of the skull and jaw. Electromyography is an additional test which is helpful in seeing how well the jaw and face muscles are performing normal functions. A biopsy can show the extent of fibrosis and muscle atrophy.

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Treatment of Lockjaw in Dogs

Whether the condition can be resolved depends on the cause; the range of success is quite variable.

As examples, surgical intervention, in the form of a resectioning of the bone, is the usual necessary treatment for temporomandibular ankylosis. Tetanus treatment is approached with antitoxins and antibiotics. Masticatory muscle myositis responds to immunosuppressive doses of corticosteroids to which the response is good, but it must be noted that your pet may need lifelong therapy, albeit in the lowest dose possible in order to avoid relapse.

Treating an underlying illness like severe ear disease can hasten the recovery of the lockjaw. Medication for a systemic ailment, such as hypoadrenocorticism will aid in the recovery too, keeping in mind that a systemic disease will need continual medication and monitoring. In general, the prognosis for lockjaw is good; however, if muscle atrophy is extensive (because of complications like fibrous muscle) the outlook can be guarded due to difficulties for your pet like eating and drinking. In addition, causes like a tumor or a severe trauma may have a less positive outcome.

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Recovery of Lockjaw in Dogs

In the case of mandibular muscle myositis , part of the treatment for your pet may have involved a procedure of gradually opening the mouth. With trigeminal nerve paralysis, the opposite is the case, and the therapy may be aimed at getting the mouth to close properly. In either case, nutrition and hydration are key needs that your canine companion will have difficulties with as he recovers or manages with this disorder. 

This being said, you will need to change your method of feeding him, whether this be temporary or permanent. A gruel type food could be needed, one that he can lap up and not need to chew. In some cases, a large rodent water bottle will work as the best drinking apparatus for your dog.

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Lockjaw Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $1,200 - $5,000

Average Cost

$1,800

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Lockjaw Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Yorkie

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Unknown

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Disoriented, Vomited, Lock Jaw(I Think, Her Mouth Won’T Close And It’S Stiff) Unsteady, She Was Shaking, Slow Response

Could she have had a seizure?

Sept. 17, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. From your brief description, it is possible that your dog did have a seizure, yes. Without being able to know more about her or see what she is doing, it is difficult for me to say what else might be going on, but I do think that she needs to go see a veterinarian right away. If there is an ER or 24-hour clinic near you I would take her there. I hope that all goes well for her.

Sept. 17, 2020

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Staffordshire Bull Terrier

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Ten Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Jaw Chomping

Woke up for my dog to have trouble with her jaw. Every time she opens her mouth (licking, yawning etc) it's as if her bottom jaw is twitching and she chomps once. No other issues, no pain as far as I can tell.

Aug. 7, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Some dogs do have issues with the joints in their jaw, or she may have dental pain that is causing her to do that. If this is something that continues, it would probably be best to have her seen by your veterinarian. They would be able to examine her mouth and her jaw, and see if there are any problems. I hope that all goes well for her.

Aug. 7, 2020

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Labradoodle Miniature

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Five Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Facial Expressions

seems to have something bothering in her mouth. i think it might be her jaw. it’s as if there is something in her throat or her jaw is locked.

Aug. 6, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. That sounds like something that should be examined by your veterinarian, as I cannot tell without looking at her what might be going on. If it is something that she is doing frequently are you think there is a problem, having her seen and examined would be best. They will be able to assess her joints and muscles of her face, and check her mouth carefully. I hope that all goes well for her and she feels better soon.

Aug. 6, 2020

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mixed breed

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9 years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Trouble Closing Mouth On Left Side, Drooping Mouth, Tears Out Of Left Eye

My dog just started having difficulty closing her mouth, when she goes to close it, her mouth tremors. Her left eye has been less open than the right and started producing tears last night.

July 30, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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Hello, I think that we had talked over chat. It would be best for your dog to see your vet for steroids and pain medication to see if that helps her jaw move correctly. Feeding her soft food in the meantime will help her be able to eat easier without any pain. Good Luck and I hope your dog starts to feel better soon.

July 30, 2020

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Mixed breed

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13.5 years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Can'T Open His Mouth To Chew, Excess Saliva, Lost Weight And Body Mass

For the past 6 months, I've noticed Buster is putting his whole nose in his bowl to eat. He has excess saliva anytime he eats & drinks. He has arthritis, and has a hard time getting up & walking. I don't have much money to take him to the vet. Should I put him down?

July 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Buster may be more comfortable with some medications, and one visit to the veterinarian for an examination may make a difference. They will be able to examine him, discuss his quality of life with you, and see if there is anything that can help. That would be what I would do before making that decision, for sure. I hope that he is okay.

July 30, 2020

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Luke

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Chihuahua/mix

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Excessive Drooling
Jaw Closed
Cries In Pain

My dog randomly stopped eating and drinking. He hides under the table and when i try to touch his mouth he cries. This has happened twice in the past few weeks. After about 1-2 hours he starts to get back to his normal self. Just wondering what this could be due to...thanks

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schebah

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Beagle Point

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1 Year

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Mouth Salivation
Eye Clouding
Eye Redness
Weakness
Loss Of Appetite
Loss Of Mass

I've 2 dogs, a male (11months) and a female (1year), in the begining the male had a little flu but now is getting fine after the got weack with some sign of flu but she was breathing through mouth , now she can't open her mouth and she lost appetite , sometimes she looks thirsty but can't open her mouth she tries eating but still don't open her mouth. Thank you for the advice.

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Torrey

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Boxer

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5 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Limping
Lockjaw

Our 5 year old boxer was diagnosed with a degenerative joint disorder in her knees 2 years ago and was getting steroid injections every 3-4 months which seemed to help with mobility. She also has sever allergies and has been on Apoquil for 3+ years. Over the past few months we began noticing an extreme change in her gait along with new symptoms that include skin lesions, swollen glands and jaw crunching. Our vet ran several tests and they came back positive for SLE (lupus). The ANA results were over the scale so we aren’t able to determine how far advanced it is. He stayed and examined her jaw and said everything looks fine. He prescribed Azathioprine but she did not tolerate well at all. Wouldn’t eat, lethargy... He switched her to Prednisone and her appetite is back but the crunching in her jaw seems to be getting worse. Could there be another underlying cause or perhaps a misdiagnosis of the Lupus?

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Lola

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Westie

dog-age-icon

5 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Sad, Antisocial, Pain In Jaw

My puppy is only 5 months old she seems very sad and antisocial and when you touch her jaw she screams i know there is something wrong with her but i would like some advice,she is eating normal please help Thank you

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Princess

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German Spitz

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7 Months

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Locked Jaw
High Fever
Twitching In The Head

My puppy has distemper. Her head keeps twitching and her jaw has been locked for a few days. She's been getting hydrated through drips but she is very weak. Is there anything we can do to unlock her jaw so that we can at least feed her since distemper is not curable and has to be fought by the dog's immune system.

Lockjaw Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $1,200 - $5,000

Average Cost

$1,800

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