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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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Mixed- cavalier King Charles/poodle

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7 months

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Unknown severity

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5 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Can’T Shut Mouth

Mouth appears to be frozen open as if jaw is locked. Upon closer inspection, she does not seem to be in pain, but rather confused as to why she can’t shut her mouth. This is happened twice within the last week. Both times it has rectified itself within 10 -15 minutes. What could be going on here and should we see the vet about this? She did have a fall off a 5 foot retaining wall when she was three months old. Actually, she didn’t fall off the wall- she jumped through the air like she thought she could fly. It was awful. Could this have anything to do with that fall? Perhaps some nerve damage?

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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5 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Since that is certainly not normal for a dog or cat to have that problem, it would be a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian. They may need to take some X-rays of her jaw and see how the joints fit together. It may have been an injury from her fall, or something unrelated. Having things like this taking care of earlier rather than later often makes them easier to deal with. I hope that all goes well for her.

Oct. 1, 2020

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Aspin

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1 year

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing

How can i feed my dog if she had a lockjaw

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I cannot see that there is a way to feed her if she cannot move her mouth or swallow. It looks from the picture that she is underweight, and I would be very concerned about her quality of life. If she cannot eat, it may not be fair to make her try to live that way, sadly. It would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian to see if there is anything that can be done for her.

Oct. 7, 2020

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Rottweiler

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Four Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Jawlock

My dog jaw r lock he not able to open his mouth neither for food nor for drinking water so what should I do for it so please help me out so tell me the treatment

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. There is no way to feed or give water to a dog that cannot open his jaw, and that dog may die a slow, painful death. He needs to see a veterinarian, as they may be able to administer nutrition until he is better.

Oct. 7, 2020

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daahund

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5 mos

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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

Upset Tummy And Locking Her Mouth

she has a upset tummy hasnt eaten in a few days she will drink some

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Puppies are very prone to parasites and infectious diseases like Parvo virus. It would be best to have them seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine your pet and see what might be causing this, and let you know what treatment might help.

Oct. 11, 2020

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Maltipoo

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Nine years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Can’T Open Mouth Fully

Out of no where yesterday my dog was laying on my chest and I pushed his head down to tell him to sleep ( I did not do it hard at all) and he whined so I stopped and was worried. Then later I realized that when he try’s to yawn he can’t fully open his mouth and if he does he starts crying.

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. He may have a problem with his jaw, or dental disease. It would be best to have them seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine your pet and see what might be causing this, and let you know what treatment might help.

Oct. 11, 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

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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

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

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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