How to Care for Your Pet After Jaw Surgery


Facial fractures are fairly common and dealing with your pet’s broken jaw can be challenging. It’s tough to see our furry loved ones experiencing pain or going through surgery. They will also face physical challenges while healing. Let’s get our paws dirty and dig into taking care of your dog after jaw surgery.

Common Causes of a Broken Jaw

Facial trauma is the most common cause of a broken upper ( Maxilla) or lower (Mandible) jaw. Common causes of facial trauma we see include pets being hit by motor vehicles, fights with other dogs, playing hard with a larger dog, being accidentally struck by something like a baseball bat or golf club, severe periodontal disease and sadly physical abuse. Many causes of facial trauma can be minimized. While most of the facial fractures and tooth fractures we see are in dogs, cats can be affected as well. It is also important to recognize and treat any issues with the teeth when the fracture is treated. A board-certified veterinary dentist can treat the fracture as well as any associated dental problems at the same time.

 If your pup likes to lunge for a ball when you are hitting them with a bat or golf club, you’ll want to use caution during outdoor play sessions with friends or family. Have someone keep them in a sit-stay position until it’s safe to chase the ball. Severe periodontal disease can cause severe damage to the bone under the gum line. Many times there are no obvious signs of a problem until the jaw actually fractures. Pets rarely show any obvious signs of dental disease that even the most observant owner would recognize. Regular cleaning with dental X-rays is required to detect these hidden problems. Learning to identify the early warning signs of periodontal disease can also help you prevent this type of injury.

Treating a Broken Jaw in Dogs

While internal fixation with metal plates, screws, and wires is sometimes required to treat a broken jaw, many fractures can be treated with acrylic splints. These are much simpler to place and in many cases do not involve a complicated surgical incision. The main goal of treatment is to make sure that the teeth line up correctly. Depending on the age of the patient and type of fracture, pets will typically fully recover from jaw surgery in 3 – 12 weeks. 

Once an acrylic splint is in place, your pet will need to abstain from chewing on toys or anything hard for several weeks. Put away any hard toys which may cause the acrylic splint to become dislodged. Don’t give them hard treats, like dehydrated snacks, rawhides or green-chews. Feed only softened food until your vet tells you that it’s safe for them to eat hard food again. Once the doctor feels that the fracture site is healed, a second brief anesthesia is required to confirm healing with x-rays. If the fracture is healed, the splint is removed.

If you live in a multi-pet household, you might have a hard time keeping your dogs from roughhousing after jaw surgery. Discourage your pets from any rough play, and use baby-gates to separate them if necessary. 

Feeding Your Dog after Jaw Surgery

A broken jaw can be more complicated to care for than an injury such as a broken limb. And taking care of and feeding a dog with a broken jaw or one that is recovering from jaw surgery is challenging. Dogs use their mouths for just about everything they do. They pick things up with their mouths, they chew to relieve stress, and they play with other dogs primarily through biting and chewing.

Keeping them fed is the primary concern after jaw surgery. In fact, the number one question we get from owners of dogs with jaw fractures is, “how do I feed my dog after jaw surgery?” 

Your dog can typically eat the night of surgery. We recognize that chewing can be difficult and painful for your pet during recovery, so we take an aggressive approach to pain control in these patients before, during, and after treatment. We don’t want to see your best friend hurting! You’ll need to moisten their food or buy them soft food ahead of time. 

You may want to transition to more frequent scheduled feeding so you can keep an eye on how much your pet is eating. We recommend giving them a small single serving of kibble (softened of course) for each meal, noting how much they eat. Just try to make a note of the fact that they didn’t eat as much as they should have. If possible, monitor their weight during this time to ensure they are eating enough. If your pet is routinely not cleaning their plate, let us know;  we can give you tips to encourage them to eat more during recovery.

Keeping Your Dog Entertained During Recovery & Healing

Exercise. Dogs need a good amount of physical exercise to be healthy and happy. Jaw surgery shouldn’t completely flip your routine on its head, but it will make things more challenging. If you typically engage in long sessions of playing fetch, you might have to swap out that tennis ball for a floppy frisbee. You can continue taking your pup on walks. Walks are a great way to both physically and mentally entertain your pup and promote pack bonding.

Mental stimulation. Mental stimulation can be just as rewarding as physical exercise. A good way to mentally engage your dog is the “shell-game.” Take three plastic cups and hide a soft treat under one of them. Mix them up and then ask your pup to choose the cup with the treat under it. If she guesses right, reward her with the treat. If not, mix them up and try again. A good way to get them engaged is by putting treats under all three cups to start. Reduce it down to two treats after a few rounds, and then down to one once they start to get the hang of the game.

Bonding. Never underestimate the power of the puppy massage. A good petting session can help relieve stress, and promote bonding. Your fur-baby is going through a really tough time. They’ll appreciate knowing that you are a source of comfort and support through their recovery period.

The Only Certified Veterinary Oral Surgeon in Montana

Does your pet have complications as a result of facial trauma? If they’re reluctant to eat or if there’s swelling or bleeding around the mouth, they may have a broken jaw. Located in Bozeman, Dr. Tony Woodward is the only board-certified veterinary dentist in all of Montana and is very experienced in treating facial trauma. After we treat your dog, we will give you a full rundown of how to take care of your dog after jaw surgery at home and what complications to be looking for. 

You don’t need a referral to have your pet seen by Dr. Woodward. All you need to do is call our Bozeman office and schedule an appointment. Dr. Woodward is on-site here in Bozeman MT full time, to handle all of your pet’s dental needs.