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What are Facial Paralysis?

Damage to the facial nerve in horses is relatively common. It can be from trauma, from degenerative nerve disease, or even from being in lateral recumbency for too long. The severity of his paralysis will determine his prognosis of a full recovery. In many cases, prognosis is good to fair, but in others it can be very poor. If your horse is diagnosed with facial paralysis, there are multiple therapies you can begin immediately to combat the permanence of the paralysis. Laser therapy, massage, and heat application therapy can all be used in conjunction with one another with the end goal being loss of paralysis and back to full facial function.

Facial paralysis can occur after a traumatic experience or can be due to a chronic disease. If you notice your horse’s face is uneven or seems to be drooping, call your veterinarian.

Facial Paralysis Average Cost

From 522 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $8,000

Average Cost

$4,000

Symptoms of Facial Paralysis in Horses

Symptoms of facial paralysis may include:

  • Loss of movement of the eyelids, ears, lips, and nostrils 
  • Loss of tone of facial muscles
  • Eyelids do not close
  • Eyeball may retract into the orbit
  • Third eyelid will elevate if orbit retracts
  • Excessive tear production if unable to blink
  • Lower or higher carriage of the affected ear
  • Lips may hang loosely
  • Fluid and food may fall from mouth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Affected nostril unable to dilate on inspiration
  • Muscles feel firm and inflexible

Types

There is acute paralysis, meaning it can occur without warning or immediately after an injury, or chronic, which are conditions that develop slowly over time and get progressively worse. There are also different regions of the face the paralysis can affect. Paralysis of the facial nerve, also known as cranial nerve VII, can affect a large majority of the face. There can also be facial nerve paralysis with peripheral damage of the surrounding areas.

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Causes of Facial Paralysis in Horses

There are multiple events that can cause facial paralysis in your horse. Trauma or injury to the side of the face is one of the most common causes. Another cause could be from his halter being too tight. If your horse is suffering from degenerative nerve disease it could eventually affect his facial nerves in addition to other nerves throughout the body.

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Diagnosis of Facial Paralysis in Horses

If your horse is experiencing unilateral facial paralysis, it will be apparent by his clinical symptoms alone. If he is experiencing bilateral paralysis, it may be a little more difficult to notice just by appearance alone. Upon further examination and palpation of the facial muscles, she will be able to notice symptoms of paralysis. 

The veterinarian may also want to take a radiograph of your horse’s skull to check for any other underlying trauma. Checking for any type of breakage or bone bruising may affect his recovery period. A complete physical exam will also help her evaluate your horse for any other problems he may be suffering from. 

Routine blood work will be recommended just as a precaution to ensure everything else in the body is functioning properly. She will want to ensure there is no infection anywhere and that his red blood cell production is within normal limits.

Some veterinarians are able to use electromyography to determine the location of the injury to the nerve and the severity of it. If you want further diagnostics and advanced imaging, the veterinarian may recommend you go to a specialist for an MRI.

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Treatment of Facial Paralysis in Horses

When it comes to treating facial paralysis in your horse, there are multiple therapies you can employ. Massage therapy can be utilized to get good blood flow to the area and applying heat to the muscles in the affected area for 15 minute intervals throughout the day can also help.

Photobiomodulation can also be used; it is what is known as light laser therapy. Running the laser over the affected area for specific increments of time can increase blood flow to the area, stimulate cell reproduction, and help with nerve regeneration. Corticosteroids, DMSO, and other medications may be prescribed in addition to the therapies.

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Recovery of Facial Paralysis in Horses

Prognosis depends on the severity and chronicity of the paralysis. Aggressive therapy is recommended as soon as your horse is diagnosed with facial paralysis. If there has been no improvement after 6 months of therapy, prognosis of recovery is poor. If the nostrils are affected, he may need reconstructive surgery in order to breathe properly and easily. If his lips are affected, you will need to get him a deep dish for drinking and make his food a soft mash like substance so it is easier for him to grab with his mouth.

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Facial Paralysis Average Cost

From 522 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $8,000

Average Cost

$4,000

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Facial Paralysis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Bob

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Thoroughbred

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11 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Excessive Drool
Lower Lip Unable To Close
Unable To Chew Properly

Current horse is OTTB and is my forever lawn mower. I came out to the yard yesterday morning to feed and noticed that he had excessive drool coming out of the right hand side of his mouth. I didn't take much notice of it until i was able to get the rugs off and noticed that his nostril on that side is a bit skew whif, and that he has a cut on his head also, just below the 'depressor of the ear' his lips on that side of the face don't meet - he is still eating (though slowly and looks like he is struggling) he does have arthritis throughout his body and is just living with a full belly these days. Just don't want him in pain or to be suffering. Haven't called the vet yet as he is still playing with the younger one, trotting and galloping around.

Sept. 17, 2018

Bob's Owner

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Spanner

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unknown

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6 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Loose Bottom Lip

My horse sometimes lets his bottom lip hang loosely (sometimes his jaw too) especially when trotting, this results in it flopping up and down, it looks quite funny and makes an odd noise. He's a rescue so I have no idea about his history, according to vets and chiropractors though he has definitely been neglected in the past. I'm not sure if this is a form of paralysis or just one of his quirks.

July 16, 2018

Spanner's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Without being able to examine him, I'm not sure if there is a problem with Spanner's lip either, but if it doesn't seem to bother him, it may just be something that he does. Since he is getting regular veterinary care, you might mention it the next time he is being looked at so that they can examine his lip and make sure that he is okay.

July 16, 2018

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Twilight

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Quarter

dog-age-icon

9 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

We recently had a fire and my horses stall was on fire as she was in it, we got her out safe but we had to board her at a neighbors horse for a while and one day the lady had messaged me saying her lip was swollen, but now the swelling is gone and my horses lip looks paralyzed along with her ear her eye is still working fine but her lip hangs and her ear droops lower than the other and she drools while she eats. I’m not sure what I should do to help her out.

Jan. 16, 2018

Twilight's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. I'm sorry that that happened to Twilight. Without examining her, I can't say what might be going on with the nerves of her face. It would be best to have her examined by your veterinarian, as they will be able to see her, figure out what is happening, and what to do about it. I hope that she is okay.

Jan. 16, 2018

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bianca

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Mustang

dog-age-icon

8 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

my horses bottom lip hangs in the right corner and she got in a accident with my old trainer and pulled to hard on her halter and ever since her lip has been almost like it has nerve damage and since its winter its been getting worse what can i do to help?

Dec. 12, 2017

bianca's Owner

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0 Recommendations

If there is some nerve damage, it is unlikely to improve; you should try to see if that area of the lip responds to physical stimuli like a sharp object or a little pinch to see if there is any sensation there. I cannot think of a way to improve the condition though. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Dec. 12, 2017

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Fin

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spanish/arab

dog-age-icon

10 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Hi, About A Month Ago My Ten Year O
Paralysis Of The Face And Penis

Hi, About a month ago my ten year old gelding had a swollen penis that wouldn't retract. I presumed it was a bite or sting, the vet treated it with anti-inflammatories, a diuretic, and antibiotics. The swelling went down though it didn't retract totally, but a few days later, he had a big swelling on his chin, his lower lip was flappy and he was having trouble eating. Chewing but most of the food dropped out. The vet put him on oral prednisone and then, when there was no improvement, on intramuscular corticosteroids. He's also showing signs of paralysis in his eyes and ears. He's maybe slightly improved since we began the injections - he seems to be getting a little more food down him. The vet believes it is a toxin and that the penis problem is part of the same thing (on the positive side, he is almost retracting his penis now so some improvement there) but no clue what, and all we can do is treat the symptoms. Everything else, temp, heartbeat, gut movement... seem fine.Any thoughts? What it could be? How to keep his strength up to give him time to improve? How long do these things take to improve if they're going to? Thank you. Nicola

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Billy

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Quarter Horse

dog-age-icon

6 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Trouble Breathing
Change In Attitude
Facial Paralysis
Drooped Lip
Collapsed Nasal Passages

We have a horse on our farm that was drugged for farrier work because his feet got quite bad while he was sent away for training and injections. After the work was done he made a gurgling sound when exercised, and had trouble breathing while standing still. The local vet realized that his nasal passage was collapsing when he was breathing and he was trying to breath out his mouth (which they can't). He also has a drooping upper lip that was equally paralyzed on both sides. We have never had something happen like this before. He is now in restricted turn out as he can't be ridden and it is too risky to put him in a field. This horse has a tendency to be a lemon.

Facial Paralysis Average Cost

From 522 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $8,000

Average Cost

$4,000

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