Lockjaw in Dogs: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment What Leads to Lockjaw in Canines and Its Treatment Options

Lockjaw in Dogs: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Lockjaw is a medical condition induced by tetanus and it affects dogs, other animals, and humans. The causes, symptoms, and treatment of lockjaw in dogs will be examined in this article.

The term "lockjaw" is often used to describe one of the most common symptoms of tetanus in dogs.  Tetanus is caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani, which creates a powerful toxin that damages the neurological system when it enters the dog's body. Deep wounds or injuries, particularly those tainted with soil, dirt, or other organic waste, may allow the germs to enter the dog's body. 

In this article, we will examine the causes, symptoms and treatment of lockjaw in canines.


The following are some of the most common causes of dog lockjaw:

  • Puncture wounds: Deep puncture wounds, such as those produced by animal bites, splinters, or piercing objects, can allow germs to enter the body.

  • Contamination of wounds: When wounds are not treated adequately and promptly, bacteria from the environment, such as soil, feces, or decaying debris, can contaminate the wound and introduce tetanus germs.

  • Surgical procedures: If surgical tools or materials are not thoroughly sterilized, germs can enter the surgical site, causing infection and the development of tetanus.

  • Untreated or poorly treated wounds: Wounds that are not cleansed, disinfected, or treated properly can provide a breeding ground for germs, including the tetanus-causing Clostridium tetani.


The severity of the infection and the course of the disease might affect the symptoms of lockjaw or tetanus in dogs. Typical signs of canine lockjaw include:

  • Stiffness and muscle rigidity: Dogs with tetanus frequently display stiffness and rigidity in their muscles, especially in the jaw and neck region. The difficulty opening the mouth as a result might give birth to the phrase "lockjaw." However, stiffness may also impact other muscles all throughout the body.

  • Muscle spasm: Tetanus results in uncontrollable muscular contractions and spasms, which manifest as jerking motions or tremors. Various muscles may have spasms, giving the body a tight and strained look.

  • Difficulty swallowing: Dogs with lockjaw may experience trouble swallowing because their jaw muscles are so rigid. This may show up as excessive drooling, a dislike of food or liquids, or regurgitation.

  • Breathing difficulties: Tetanus may damage the muscles involved in breathing, which might make it difficult to breathe. Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and respiratory distress can all be seen in dogs.

  • Sensitivity to touch or noise: Dogs with lockjaws may exhibit heightened sensitivity to touch or noise. When touched or startled, they could react angrily and show symptoms of pain or discomfort.

  • Generalized weakness: Tetanus-infected dogs may become sluggish and feeble as the condition worsens. Due to muscular stiffness and spasms, they may struggle to stand or walk.

What to do when a Dog's jaw locks

Some common lockjaw in dogs treatment options include:

  • Hospitalization: Tetanus in dogs frequently need hospitalization for extensive treatment and monitoring. This allows vets to closely monitor their status and treat them as needed.

  • Wound Management: If a wound or injury is identified, it will be properly cleansed and treated to eradicate any sources of germs. Cleaning the wound, debriding any necrotic tissue, and providing adequate wound care may be required to avoid future infection.

  • Antibiotics: To eradicate tetanus bacteria, broad-spectrum antibiotics such as penicillin or metronidazole are often used. These drugs aid in infection management and prevention.

  • Tetanus antitoxin: Dogs with tetanus may be given tetanus antitoxin, which is an injection of antibodies that neutralize the bacteria's toxin. This helps to offset the toxin's effects on the body.

  • Muscle relaxants and Sedatives: Drugs can be given to treat stiffness and muscular spasms. Sedatives and muscle relaxants help the dog feel better by reducing the symptoms of lockjaw.

  • Supportive Care: Supportive treatment is necessary for tetanus-infected dogs to preserve their general health and handle complications. To avoid dehydration, intravenous fluids may be given, along with dietary assistance and vital sign monitoring.

  • Respiratory support: In extreme situations when the breathing muscles are harmed, dogs may need assistance for the respiratory system. This may need mechanical breathing in severe circumstances or oxygen treatment.

Prevention Tips

The chance of the bacterium Clostridium tetani entering a dog's body must be reduced to prevent lockjaw, also known as tetanus. Here are some precautions to take:


  • Vaccination: Verify that your dog has had all necessary vaccines, including the tetanus shot if your doctor has advised it. The risk of infection is considerably decreased by vaccination, which contributes to the development of immunity against tetanus-causing bacteria.

  • Wound care: Clean and attend to your dog's wounds promptly and watch for potential infections. To remove any dirt, debris, or germs that can potentially lead to an infection, thoroughly cleanse the area with clean water or a mild antiseptic solution. 

  • Avoid contaminated environments: Limit your dog's exposure to potentially harmful places, such as those containing decomposing organic matter, standing water, or animal excrement. The tetanus-causing bacterium may live in these settings.

  • Managing wounds properly: If your dog suffers from a severe puncture wound or a wound that might get infected, get medical attention immediately. 

  • Keep an eye on your dog's health: Be aware of your dog's general health and happiness. Consult your veterinarian promptly if there are any symptoms of disease or strange behavior. Tetanus can be avoided with the early diagnosis and treatment of infections or wounds.

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