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Broken jaw?

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  • Broken jaw?

    I did a search and couldn't find anything useful, so I'm starting a thread.

    I just had the vet out to look at one of our beasties and we think he has fractured his jaw. It's not displaced, but it is hugely swollen. The horse is barely eating and in obvious pain. We weren't able to get xrays today, so can't say 100% that it's the jaw and not teeth, but everything points to it being a problem with the jaw - not teeth.

    This is killing me! The poor horse is not an easy keep at the best of times. He had ulcers when we first got him and had a couple serious colic episodes when he was at the vet school being treated for an eye problem. He'll drop weight in a heartbeat.

    Has anyone here dealt with a broken jaw before? My vet and I discussed what I might expect, but I'd like to hear from anyone who has experienced this particular 'problem'. Right now his pain is (hopefully) being managed, he's on steriods and antibiotics. I'm watching and hoping for improvement. He'll eat a bit of mush and poke at hay. I estimate he's eating about 1/4-1/3 of his regular rations.
    Y'all ain't right!

  • #2
    Have an older (coming 19) stallion that had a broken jaw as a 2 or 3 year old (long before I got him at 13)....so can't talk about acute care problems. My old boy had some nerve damage along with his fracture and has loss of muscle control on the lower half of one side of his muzzle...dribbles food and water, can't feel a bit on that side, slack lower lip and lower nostril looks like it has slid further down his muzzle than the one on the good side. He tends to have problems working hay out of his cheek on that side on occasion but has learned to tip his head sideways with the bad side up....food falls out of his cheek and he manages it fine. If he gets some stuck he will rub his cheek against the pipe rail of his pen gate and get it where he wants it. Since he's managed this for 16 or 17 years now and gets his teeth done routinely I just leave well enough alone...he knows how to manage his feed (and pellets are just more of the same for him).
    Colored Cowhorse Ranch
    Northern NV


    • #3
      Can you get him some dengie and see if he can/will eat that. Jingles for a quick recovery.
      McDowell Racing Stables

      Home Away From Home


      • Original Poster

        Thanks CCH. I saw where you mentioned your guy when I was doing my search. I don't think our guy has any nerve damage and everything 'looks' normal - just swollen, so hopefully we won't have to deal with that....
        It's good to know that your guy has adjusted well.
        Y'all ain't right!


        • Original Poster

          Originally posted by Laurierace View Post
          Can you get him some dengie and see if he can/will eat that. Jingles for a quick recovery.
          I was thinking about soaking chopped alfalfa for him, but Dengie would probably be even more enticing! Good suggestion. I'll call my feed guys now....
          Y'all ain't right!


          • #6
            You might do a slurry of wet beet pulp and soaked hay cubes. You could add some molasses powder if he doesn't eat it. I would try if plain first, and remember that he is in pain, so not eating well could be difficult right now.

            We have a horse with a previously broken jaw. Not sure exactly when it happened, and we actually never noticed a problem. He ate well, never lost weight or acted off at all! A little spilled feed, so we figured teeth needed doing but dentist was gone until spring. We think it happened in fall or early winter. He was not working because it was just too cold, so had time to heal, not as much "personal" attention as a horse in work would get.

            Dentist came in spring to do everyone, brought the break to our attention. He started by saying, "Wow, this looks REAL GOOD now!" And of course we said "What?" He showed us the break spot, filling in of gum over bars. Horse got the rest of the year off, to fill in needed bone, gums, on recommend of dentist.

            Since healing, horse now has a bit of overbite, has been difficult to find a bit that makes him happy. Right now he is using a thick, ported mouthpiece, wrapped with latex where it crosses the bars. Horse is quite sensitive, not well educated on the bit use like he will be with more riding. Latex has helped a lot.

            So we figured a year of healing, and you still may have some problems.

            If I was to find another broken jaw early, I would get it x-rayed to make sure the bone parts are aligned for better healing. Proababy done at an Equine clinic or the MSU College here Might need some parts held together for a while to keep it straight during healing. Our boy probably would not have his overbite if we had intervened when it happened. Again, no really visible signs with swelling, not eating, huge pile of lost feed on the floor while chewing.

            Opening mouths and checking for broken jaw would be WAY down on my thoughts of reason horse was a bit off. He was fairly bouncy at that time anyway, which we put to being young and no job to do. Temps were just way too cold that year for outside training work so he was a pasture ornament days, barned at night. So he just got left alone, healed himself.

            Not much help, but maybe treating him like an old horse with no teeth to chew, he could get enough nutrition to manage. Thin and trim is not sinful, just not how we are used to seeing them. Actually healthier for the horse than with a fat layer on him. Any cold shivers can be helped with a blanket, but he may not get cold. I would skip feeding true grain, maybe some Senior pellets mushed up in his wet feed to add mineral needs. My old horse looked quite well on that wet diet, NO molasses, when she lost most of her teeth. I figured she would not choke on the short, cut lengths of hay cubes wet. Her digestive tract liked them, she had better bloom once I started feeding them to her. I went with Timothy cubes, or Timothyand Alfalfa cubes, not straight alfalfa which gave her the runs.

            Good luck with your horse.


            • Original Poster

              I noticed problem yesterday. His normal feed is Triple Crown Complete - it's beet pulp based. I've been soaking a bit of that with mostly TC senior which is very similar. He's trying, but he's just not happy.

              I checked and can get Dengie and/or TC forage to soak for him. I was thinking perhaps a mixture of the TC Safe Starch and Grass Forage would be good. Since his calorie/vit/mineral intake will probably be cut back if he's eating less, the Safe Starch will provide the good stuff he needs, but the Grass Forage will have the molasses he likes and perhaps he'll eat a bit more than he would the plain Safe Starch...

              As for physical issues, my vet says to expect at least 8 weeks if it's what he thinks. The horse already has a cross and over bite. He's well trained, on the long side of 'mature', and his kid is a senior in hs. She's pretty busy for the next few months, so he could easily take a break.

              Right now my main concern is keeping him eating enough and keeping him from stressing too much.
              Y'all ain't right!


              • #8
                [QUOTE=goodhors;5279767]Since healing, horse now has a bit of overbite, has been difficult to find a bit that makes him happy. Right now he is using a thick, ported mouthpiece, wrapped with latex where it crosses the bars. Horse is quite sensitive, not well educated on the bit use like he will be with more riding. Latex has helped a lot.

                My old boy got treated and apparently didn't have any misalignment of the bone but did get nerve damage. Found he works best, the few times he's been ridden in the last 6 years, in a thick (about as big as my thumb) bosal and mecate...works more on nasal bones and he can feel on the lower jaw on the off side so three out of four areas for him to respond to...plus the neck reining from the mecate (nice horsehair one). Fortunately he's also cutting trained so is responsive nicely to legs/spur as well and to weight cues. He's pretty much a pasture puff except for breeding.....loves his ladies and makes some really wonderful foals from a variety of mares....have a "born broke" attitude and love whatever you want to do with them. He's definitely a keeper despite his slightly off kilter look and the mess he makes of his water tub.
                Colored Cowhorse Ranch
                Northern NV


                • #9
                  Horse at the stable I boarded as a kid came in with a broken jaw. Basically the jaw broke in the area where the bit sits - the lower piece was sitting on top of the upper in his lower jaw. There wasn't much they could do surgically, but they fed him like the other seniors - soaked senior feed - and he was on bute. He couldn't get hay while he was healing, they didn't want him chewing that much.

                  He healed up just fine. He had to go in a hack because of the nature of the injury (no more bits for him), but he lived quite a few years and was used in the lesson program. He was one of the favorites. He pretty much stayed on the mush diet for years and did just fine.


                  • #10
                    I had one with a broken lower jaw. His symptoms were eating funny, then colic. Took him to another vet who diagnosed ulcers and asked if I wanted to start treatment or have him scoped. I said I'd like to have him scoped, so I hauled him to the local vet school, who also diagnosed ulcers. It wasn't until he had spent a night in their hospital that the broken jaw (and one root of the first molar) was suspected and confirmed with xrays. Jaw was not displaced. They wouldn't do anything about the tooth until the jaw healed. So he came home with antibiotics and Gastrogard. He was on SMZ for a couple of months, there was a huge abscess draining under his chin where the spot had gotten infected, and I had to syringe his mouth with a weak iodine solution every time he ate.

                    He got soaked alfalfa cubes, soaked beet pulp, and soaked Senior feed for the first three weeks or so, then unsoaked senior and the rest soaked.

                    I have pictures of the abscess and they are gruesome.

                    He's healed very well; two vets have given me different solutions to the broken tooth. One, an certified equine dental specialist says take it out now. Two others (and their consulting dentist) say wait until it is bothering him. I have to give him Tucoprim every so often to ward off infection.

                    This happened when he was 2 1/2, and he's 5 1/2 now. He's in no discomfort and no pain, but he's worked only with bitless bridles and hackamores.

                    The certified equine dental specialist told me that he likely got his jaw caught in a bucket somehow, and that this sort of break was not terribly uncommon in horses who were 2 years old or so. Once they are older, the jawbone is tougher.
                    Last edited by vineyridge; Dec. 14, 2010, 01:22 AM.
                    "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
                    Thread killer Extraordinaire


                    • #11
                      I would soak alfalfa cubes until they are soup and let him drink those.


                      • Original Poster

                        vineyridge, your "eating funny then colic" sounds like it could be this guy! I'm glad to hear about your treatment too. This guy has been on SmartGut for a while, so I'm hoping he'll maintain until I can get him eating and comfortable. I'm heading to the store for applesauce to mix SMZ's with. Since he isn't eating well, I need to make sure he's got something tasty to slurp his meds in.
                        The probability that a tooth (or teeth) is involved worries me. Your story lets me know that's not an unfounded worry. Interesting to hear that in your guy's case it was something to wait and see about. I'm thinking some hot compresses might be a good thing.
                        The nearest place (vet school) that can do good rads and really deal with a big tooth problem is about 4 hours away and it's where he spent about 6 weeks last spring and had his colic episodes. I'm sure he'd melt down right away if he has to go back 'there'!

                        Thanks everyone! Keep the stories and ideas coming...
                        Y'all ain't right!


                        • #13
                          Our horse is fairly young, only 7, and just being brought along. With his year off, having other things at home, he is just getting a VERY late start.

                          Horse is aimed at a Driving career, with riding as his second use, so he must wear a curb bit. Ring snaffle is just not going to work for the Driving stuff he must perform, plus his Dressage work in harness. Can't go bitless. As I said, he seems pretty happy with his present bit. He just has not had much under saddle work to develop his lightness and flexability yet. He does not over-react to rein pull or sideways pull for turns. His driving training has been steadily advancing this year, now that we are MAKING time to work him. Not bad on the riding either, with the small amount of saddle time he has gotten. He takes the bit when you ask, you can talk with the reins, he gives in self-carriage and has started using his rear much better.

                          I don't forsee any problems ahead, unless he decides he wants a different bit.


                          • #14
                            Tooth removal in a young horse is difficult at best and risks a broken jaw even when the jaw isn't broken. The vet school was afraid that if they went ahead immediately, the jaw would displace and they would have to insert metal to hold it together, which might mean a second surgery later to remove the metal. So they said to let the break heal and then do the tooth and pray that the jaw didn't break again.
                            "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
                            Thread killer Extraordinaire


                            • Original Poster

                              I'm heading out to see what the morning has for me.
                              Last night he enjoyed his warm mush and I thought the forage I added would be a big hit. He seemed to like it at first, then he stopped eating it. When I replaced it with warm mushy TC senior only he ate it all (a couple pounds dry + warm water)! The old blind mare thought she had died and gone to heaven when all that warm mushy forage appeared in her feed bowl
                              My big problem now is getting his meds in the horse. He absolutely will not touch his feed if anything is in it. I wore most of the applesauce/molasses/SMZ mixture and he just about killed us both when I tried to get some Bute paste in him. I must discuss non-oral medication options with my vet today....
                              Y'all ain't right!


                              • #16
                                I had a young horse mount his head on a T post.

                                The post went up into his face on the underside somewhat between his two cheek bones exposing that nice fat blood vessel. If he had been any further to the left he would have severed it an bled to death.

                                The vet came out and cleaned it up. He even dug out a nice piece of the horses jaw bone as a keep sake. He stitched that sucker up. I did 5 cold laser treatments and never looked back.
                                The vet mentioned that most likely it would never fully close up, possibly abscess and they would have to open it up and dig out the area.

                                The horse had a fat jaw for quite a while. X Ray showed the crack went into some of his bottom molar roots too.

                                he never missed a meal and was back to work in 3 weeks with a bit in his mouth.

                                He was a tough lil TB though.

                                Here he is, two months after the incident.

                                cutie pie.
                                Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!


                                • Original Poster

                                  Thanks purplenurpl. That's a happy outcome

                                  Our guy ate most of his warm, mashed up TC senior this morning. He wouldn't touch the warm soaked forage that I offered. I didn't bother with oral meds and he was much happier about that. Spoke with two vets and he'll be switching to injectibles for antibiotics and pain management.
                                  As a bonus, I opened the pasture with new winter wheat & rye to the geldings. They all ran to the new stuff and everyone was happily grazing when I left the farm! I felt better seeing him eating grass....
                                  Y'all ain't right!


                                  • #18
                                    A PSA: A while ago people made stall latches for stable half-doors out of horseshoes and I know of not one, but two horses who got their lower jaws hooked onto the horseshoe and stuck. Horses threw their heads up and broke their jaws.
                                    Those lataches are pretty much taboo now unless they are welded with some sort of filler for the shoe.

                                    I still cannot figure how a person would release a horse from such a predicament.
                                    Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


                                    • #19
                                      How's this guy doing today?

                                      Has he got an abscess yet?
                                      "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
                                      Thread killer Extraordinaire


                                      • Original Poster

                                        No abscess yet.
                                        I had to go out of town Wednesday & Thursday. We put him on a pretty high powered once-a-day antibiotic and banamine so my help would only have to give him injections once a day (the regular farm help isn't good with needles).
                                        I saw him for the first time since Tuesday night this morning. I think the swelling has gone own some. He's definitely more comfortable and a lot happier.

                                        He's eating mushy TC senior pretty well and he runs to the rye/wheat pasture to graze on the young winter grass. He's dropped some weight, but he doesn't seem as stressed now. Huge sigh of relief from BS!! He'll be on this course of meds through Sunday and we'll reevaluate on Monday. To tell you the truth, I'm not so sure it is the jaw - it seems more like a tooth to me...
                                        Y'all ain't right!