The temporomandibular joint allows the jaw to open and close. Feline TMJ is a rare condition that occurs when a cat has difficulty opening or closing that joint. It is usually caused when the animal fractures its jaw but can be the result of inflammation or unusual jaw or tooth development. Feline TMJ is painful and potentially life threatening to a cat so it is imperative the cat be taken to a veterinarian’s office immediately.
Feline TMJ is ideally diagnosed by a computed tomography (CT) scan because it is the most accurate type. It is wise to get a diagnosis as soon as you sense a problem because TMJ symptoms generally get worse with time. The TMJ will heal faster if treated as soon as possible. Several treatments are considered and depend on the cause of the TMJ. If the joints in the cat’s jaw are not hinged together, the veterinarian will put the joints in place (sometimes using a pencil) and place a castlike muzzle on the cat for several weeks to allow the joints to heal in place. If the TMJ is caused by a tooth with abnormal growth, the tooth will be extracted. More commonly, the TMJ is caused by a fracture and, in this case, surgery is usually necessary.
If your cat suffered from problems with TMJ or underwent surgery, it will likely be in a lot of pain. Pain management techniques are important for the healthy recovery of the cat. Your veterinarian should prescribe pain medications after surgery. If he doesn't, discuss pain medications with him. Inflammation may occur due to the TMJ and/or because of treatment. Steroids can be used for a short term for inflammation relief.
When you take your cat home, set up a comfortable environment for the pet. Give your animal a relaxing, quiet place to rest. Make a soft bed with a heating pad or electric blanket. The heat will help soothe the cat and relax its muscles. If you use a heating pad, be sure to cover it with a towel and set it on low for the safety of your pet. Give your cat space and let it rest, but make sure to give it gentle, loving care in the form of petting or whatever your cat enjoys most.
Maggie Lynn has been writing about education, parenting and health topics since 2005, in addition to being an educator. She holds a Master of Science in child and family studies.