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The 'mandible' is a common medical term for the lower jawbone. Damage to and breakage of the jaw can be massively debilitating for any animal, making it extremely difficult to eat, drink, and communicate. For dogs, however, it is doubly so, as they rely almost exclusively on the use of their mouths to interact with objects in the world around them. This also means that it can be difficult to properly heal a breakage of a dog's jawbone due to the fact that they are constantly trying to utilize that part of their body. Because of this, vets have developed particular methods of mandibular fracture repair that will allow the dog to regain the use of their mouths in as short a time as possible.
Before beginning the operation, the vet will have taken a series of x-rays of the dog's jaw in order to determine how exactly the bone should be set and to see if there is any damage to the roots of the teeth. They will start the procedure by anesthetizing the dog and placing them on their stomach on the operating table. Next, the vet will align the pieces of the broken bone with each other and secure them in place by surgically threading metal wire around the jawbone. The next step is to apply a pre-formed resin splint over the top of the teeth to hold the pieces and the wiring in place. Finally, the vet will be able to clean up any protruding wire and revive the dog. Overall, the procedure can take in excess of an hour to complete.
Fracture repair using wiring and a splint is one of the only viable ways in which to reliably heal a broken mandible in a dog. Fortunately, the vast majority of cases meet with resounding success, the dog regaining the full use of its jaw within a couple of months. The only viable alternative method would be internal fixation, which essentially consists of implanting a metal rod or plate next to the jawbone and securing it in place with screws, thereby holding the separate pieces of the bone in place as they heal. However, this is generally only used for complex fractures, and is a lot more invasive than the standard repair procedure.
The majority of dogs who have had their mandible surgically repaired will take roughly five weeks to fully heal, with older dogs needing slightly longer. For the duration of the recovery period, owners will have to provide the dog with regular doses of painkillers in order to minimize any discomfort that may be caused by the internal wiring in the jaw. Owners should also keep a careful watch over what their dog is attempting to chew and interact with using their mouth, as some objects may cause disruption to the healing process. The vet will also want to schedule several follow-up appointments in order to check on the dog's progress and to eventually remove the splint and wiring from its mouth.
The price of performing a mandibular fracture repair on a dog can be quite high, due to the specialized skills and surgical expertise required in order to properly perform the procedure. Most owners can expect to pay over $1,000 for the surgery, with older dogs or ones with questionable oral health costing more still. By contrast, an internal fixation procedure would easily cost over $1,000, with some estimates placing the price closer to $2,000. This is due to the dramatically more invasive nature of the procedure and the commensurate level of skill needed to properly do the operation.
Whilst the mandibular fracture repair procedure is extremely effective, it is not without a couple of potential risk factors that some owners may find intimidating. The first and most obvious of these is the possibility of an infection occurring, due to the presence of open wounds in the dog's mouth. However, it should be kept in mind that the dog will receive regular visits to the vet following its operation, giving ample time for them to spot a potential problem and administer the appropriate antibiotics. The second potential risk is plaque buildup occurring under the splint in the weeks that the dog must wear the device. Although it can be a problem, this generally only occurs in dogs with poor oral hygiene to begin with and who already have noticeable levels of plaque. In order to avoid this occurring, owners can simply institute a regular tooth-cleaning program for their dog to improve their dental health.
The majority of dogs that suffer from fractures to the lower jaw tend to incur their injuries in a couple of ways: being struck by vehicles, being attacked by other dogs, or being accidentally hit by tools and objects carried by humans. By properly training a dog to be aware of the dangers posed by roads and motor vehicles, owners can avoid many potential injuries and costs. The same goes for properly socializing the dog to be able to interact with other animals without becoming aggressive, just as preventing them from roaming unsupervised will help prevent them from straying onto an unfriendly canine's territory. Lastly, maintaining a clean and tidy living environment for the dog and properly closing off workspaces can dramatically help lower the potential chances of accidents occurring.
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3 found helpful
Is it worth getting it him surgery should he be put to sleep?
Sept. 29, 2020
Dr. Michele K. DVM
Thank you for your question, I'm sorry this is happening to your pet. Without being able to see how badly the jaw is broken, I do not know how well it will heal or how invasive the surgery is. I don't know if it would be better do not let your pet suffer or if it is something that is worth trying to fix. I think it would be a good idea to discuss that with your veterinarian, as they know more what is going on, and how bad the break is. I'm sorry that is happening, and I hope that everything goes okay.
Sept. 30, 2020
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