It is not uncommon for a cat to break its jaw due to a traumatic incident; usually falling from a height or being hit by a car. The lower jaw (the mandible) usually fractures right in the middle of the chin which is very painful and renders the pet unable to use its jaw to eat. Fortunately for most cats, they heal very well when the jaw is wired back together. Now if only they can remember not to run across the street again……
This area contains graphic pictures of an actual jaw repair performed at the hospital. It may not be suitable for some children (and some adults also!).
In almost all cases of jaw fracture the diagnosis is obvious. The pet is drooling, the jaw hangs down, and it is unable to eat. There are frequently other signs of trauma present somewhere on the body.
Palpation of the jaw (under anesthesia) reveals the extent of the problem. The location of this fracture is called the symphysis of the mandible.
The two halves of the lower jaw (the mandible) are wired back together with stainless steel wire. The wire is kept in place for approximately one month, then the cat is anesthetized again and the wire removed. Most cats begin eating within 1-2 days of the repair, and only rarely do we have to place a feeding tube in so they can ingest adequate calories. If there are no other problems almost all cats heal completely.
A special stainless steel wire is placed around the lower jaw. To be anchored properly, and to stay in place until healing is complete, the wire must pass through the underside of the jaw.
The surgeon then aligns the 2 fractured pieces and gently tightens the wire. When finished the wire passes under the tongue but over the lower jaw.
The ends of the wire pass out through the skin under the jaw. The wire is pushed up against the skin so it does not interfere or snag on things.
This radiograph gives an inside view of the wire.
The roof of the mouth (the hard palate) is bruised because this cat was hit by a car. Fortunately the hard palate was not fractured, so no further treatment was needed.
The tongue was severely bruised also. This is the type of lesion, that when added to the fractured jaw, can prevent a cat from eating. Luckily the bruised tongue healed within a few days and this cat started eating soon. If not, we would have put a feeding tube in.
Jaw fractures can be quite painful, so it is common for us to use pain medication.