FACIAL PARALYSIS IN HORSES

MYTH: I had looked at a two year old this spring, thinking of buying him. When I found out he was still for sale, I went back to look at him again. The poor horse has one side of his lip hanging down, drooling and his one eye seemed smaller than the other. His face looked paralyzed. The man said it would get better and said I could buy him for away less money. How can a horse like this get better? This is permanent, isn’t it?

FACT: Facial Paralysis is due to an injury of the Fifth Trigeminal (the Facial Nerve) which passes round the base of the ear and supplies the impulses and reflexes to the OPPOSITE side of the face. The lower lip usually droops on one side and the horse may slobber or drool especially when drinking. The eye on the side opposite to the drooping lip may appear markedly smaller than the other.

Usually the injury, which caused it, was under the horse’s ear or along side of the face. It may have been from a blow, or from the horse violently throwing his head into something solid, such as a feeder, barn wall, post, etc. Also is caused by a horse falling hard over a fence or on hard ground, with his head region striking the ground with great force. Occasionally it arises secondary to a Strangles Abscess of the Parotid Gland, which is the gland that lies just below the ear.

Time and Patience alone will cure Facial Paralysis. Local treatment is ineffective and a waste of time and money. Horses, except perhaps the very Senior Citizens ones, do get better, though it may take up to two years to resume a normal appearance. Just occasionally the defect remains permanent, but, though unsightly, it rarely, if ever, impairs the animals usefulness.

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