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What is Paralysis of the Jaw?

Jaw paralysis in dogs is usually caused by trigeminal neuropathy in the mandibular branch of the nerve, which disrupts the animal's ability to control certain facial muscles. The condition is best characterized, or recognized by pet owners, by an inability to move the mouth though other symptoms may be present depending on the extent of the neuropathy. There is no known cause for trigeminal neuropathy, and it typically resolves on its own after several weeks.

Trigeminal neuropathy is the most common cause for paralysis of the jaw, as inflammation of the trigeminal nerve leads to an inability to move the mouth. Because of its idiopathic nature, there is no true treatment for the condition, though supportive care will be necessary during the recovery period. Most dogs recover full use of their facial muscles after a few weeks.

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Symptoms of Paralysis of the Jaw in Dogs

The characteristic symptom of jaw paralysis is an inability to open or close the mouth, which may result in your dog's lower jaw dropping open. Depending on which specific branches of the trigeminal nerve are affected, additional clinical signs may include:

  • Inability to blink
  • Difficulty eating or drinking
  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy
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Causes of Paralysis of the Jaw in Dogs

Paralysis of the jaw is most commonly caused by trigeminal neuropathy, an inflammatory disease that affects the trigeminal nerve and leads to a disruption in the dog's ability to control facial muscles. The disease is typically idiopathic, meaning that there is no known cause, although paralysis of the jaw may also arise as the result of a separate underlying condition such as an infection.

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Diagnosis of Paralysis of the Jaw in Dogs

As part of the initial examination, the veterinarian may conduct laboratory testing, including blood work and a urinalysis. However, paralysis of the jaw can be easily diagnosed by the dog's inability to move his mouth, and the veterinarian may make a presumptive diagnose of trigeminal neuropathy based on clinical findings and history.

The diagnosis is typically confirmed by ruling out other potential causes for your dog's symptoms. The veterinarian will inspect your dog's ears thoroughly for signs of infection and may use an MRI or CT to examine the brain and skull. Imaging helps determine possible underlying causes for the paralysis, if any, and may reveal a slightly enlarged trigeminal nerve, though such comprehensive tests are usually used to rule out other diseases instead of to confirm trigeminal neuropathy.

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Treatment of Paralysis of the Jaw in Dogs

Idiopathic trigeminal neuropathy usually clears up on its own after two or three weeks. The veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication though treatment typically focuses on supportive care instead of on curing the condition. Because of the dog's inability to move his jaw, it is important to ensure that he is getting sufficient nutrition and hydration in other ways. Most dogs are still able to lap with their tongues, but a feeding tube may be necessary depending on the severity of the paralysis.

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Recovery of Paralysis of the Jaw in Dogs

During the recovery process, you may need to provide nutritional support for your dog. A liquid diet is the standard for dogs recovering from trigeminal neuropathy, as most are still able to use their tongues. It's imperative that you provide your pup with plenty of water, and cook all meals down to the consistency of gruel, making it possible for your dog to receive proper nutrition.

If you notice any new clinical signs in your dog, inform the veterinarian immediately. However, the prognosis for this condition is generally good, as trigeminal neuropathy often clears up on its own after several weeks.

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Paralysis of the Jaw Average Cost

From 29 quotes ranging from $300 - $3,500

Average Cost

$800

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Paralysis of the Jaw Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Ask a Vet

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Tootsie

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Finnish Spitz

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9 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

About a month ago I noticed Tootsie stopped eating her bowl of food, she would eat about half or less which is not normal, she usually wolfs down her food. After a week or so of this she stopped eating all together maybe a bite or two of a treat or something from the fridge. I took her to the Vet on the morning of the 15th of Aug., had blood work done and a urinalysis. Blood work showed no problem with the Liver but high numbers on the Kidneys. The Urinalysis also showed a infection of the lower U track or kidneys Vet was not sure. Vet prescribed Cephalexin 500 mg, two capsules twice a day. Tootsie started sneezing the evening of the 15th and again on the 16th.... about 4 or 5 times a day, 3 or 4 sneezes at a time, hard sneezes but there is no mucus . Tootsie also seems to have a hard time keeping her eyes open, she can open them but then she will squint or close them. Can't tell if the Cephalexin is working or not. But that's not all, now on the 18th she started to have systems of Trigeminal neuropathy, again. She just went through this back in March, April and May. She can't lap water or pick up anything with her mouth or tongue, has to be hand fed and hydrated with a syringe. Back in April she did have issues with her Liver. She was taking Ciprofloxacin 250mg, and Denamarin. We need some help.

July 26, 2017

Tootsie's Owner


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Thank you for your question. Trigeminal neuropathy may be idiopathic (unknown origin) or secondary to another condition. You know that with good nursing care, trigeminal neuropathy will resolve itself in time if it isn’t caused by any underlying conditions. There is a possibility that the elevated kidney values on the biochemistry panel and the trigeminal neuropathy are connected. In that case, the treatment of the underlying condition will help resolve the trigeminal neuropathy. If after the course of Cephalexin has finished, Tootsie still has elevated kidney values on the biochemistry panel, it would be worth having an ultrasound of the kidneys to check size and structure. I would monitor Tootsie for the time being as treatment has just started, if the symptoms start to get worse (can’t swallow or inhales food or water) then return immediately to your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 26, 2017

My very large German shepherd is having problems closing her mouth. Just started and vet isn't open until Monday. Wondering if it's neuropathy. She's normal in every other way, just can't chew hard food, so we are doing canned, and she has a hard time lapping water so we help her with that too. Do we wait out the few weeks duration, or bring her in? We no longer vet our dogs being all I've read on vaccines. Our yard is fenced and they don't go anywhere but our yard and home. She is a white Shepard and was born with a pretty big over bite. She is 6 years old and this has never happened before now. She's playful, loves having the hose water sprayed at like normal, loves her walks and still tries chasing down my cats. So at a loss of this

June 16, 2018

Jill


HI Dr Turner, this is a wonderful site. Thank you for your efforts. My standard poodle developed a sudden onsite of partial paralyzation to his right eye, and jaw, which involved his nose, and tongue. He also develop significant myopathy of the madeval muscle, head muscles, and his eye muscles. I began to see his eye lashes roll under to touch is eye. How it started was his normal tall carriage of head, and tail, suddenly dropped inline with his back, more like a border collie. He stayed in bed in a flat potion, and pawed at me for help. I thought he was scared. After about 10 days, he seemed to recover. I check his ear, all were clear. Then the paralyzation symptoms kicked in wiht signficant myopathy. Doctor most concerning is Yeti also involved a paralyzed larynx, I am thinking on the one side. (I had this after a neck surgery, so luckily I knew about what to be aware of with eating food and drinking water and inability to stay cool by panting.) Yeti is 13.5 years old, in great shape, and genetically tested for all that effect this breed. There is no genetic link for this in poodles. It looked bad! With the rapid deterioration of the muscles and nearly closed eye, the general view was he had a brain tumor. He has a bit of rear leg instability, as well. I was not totally convinced, since it was an sudden onsite in a dog I know so well. What about the nearly two weeks of dropped head? We went to Oregon State Univ Small Animal Hospital. Dr. Bronson did a complete physical exam. He then suggested the leg issues were not likely to related to the face and neck issues, if from the brain. From a lay view, I also agreed. The sluggish left leg is not new. Next we proceeded with an MRI of the head and then an MRI of the cervical region. I sat waiting to hear about the large tumor that had invaded my Yeti's brain. I asked myself who does a MRI on a terminally ill dog? I am such a drama queen looking for any inclining of hope always! It was a good thing! The MRI showed the trigeminal nerve branch was inflamed, AND there was no tumor. Also it is important to note, earlier in the month I had radiology done on Yeti's neck and throat, and chest, all were clear. He was sleeping more, but never lost consciousness. Further tests showed there was no presence of bacteria. The inflammed area is very close to the laryngeal nerve. My understanding one effected the other. I am on the frontend of learning to consider nerves directly as a possible source of issues in dogs, especially our beloved senior dogs. I hope I understood the pathology correctly. Please correct me, if I have missed it. All The Best, and Thank You for your site, Julie James.

Aug. 30, 2017

Julie K.


Hi, Julie. Eby, a 6 years old Labrador, is in the same situation as your poodle. We live in Germany and the doctors here just recommend more tests.... it' s a waste of time, nerves and money. Please let me know if your dog is healthy again. Thanks! J.B

Oct. 26, 2017

J.B.

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Paralysis of the Jaw Average Cost

From 29 quotes ranging from $300 - $3,500

Average Cost

$800

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