Trigeminal Neuralgia in Dogs

Trigeminal neuralgia in dogs affects the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for helping your dog use the muscles in his face. Dogs with trigeminal neuralgia often have trouble blinking their eyes and opening and closing their mouths. Fortunately, however, this condition usually isn't permanent. Read on to learn more about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of trigeminal neuralgia in dogs.

Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia in Dogs

Trigeminal neuralgia in dogs typically occurs due to injury or inflammation of the trigeminal nerve, which helps your dog use the muscles of his face to blink, eat and drink. Bone deformities, tumors and injuries can cause trigeminal neuralgia in dogs. Often, it occurs as a result of an underlying condition. Sometimes, trigeminal neuralgia occurs in dogs without an obvious reason; this type of trigeminal neuralgia is known to vets as idiopathic trigeminal neuralgia.

Symptoms of Trigeminal Neuralgia in Dogs

The primary symptom of trigeminal neuralgia is an inability to open and close the mouth. Your dog's lower jaw may begin to dangle limply. He may also lose the ability to blink his eyes. In most cases, dogs don't experience total paralysis of the facial muscles, especially not in the initial stages of the disease.

Diagnosing and Treating Trigeminal Neuralgia in Dogs

Your dog will need to see a veterinary neurologist to get a diagnosis for his condition. MRIs and other comprehensive tests may be in order, since the veterinary neurologist will want to rule out the possibility that underlying conditions might have caused you dog's neuralgia.

In most cases, the symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia disappear once the damage or trauma to the trigeminal nerve has healed. Most dogs experience symptoms for only two or three weeks. Your vet can prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs, most often steroids, to treat inflammation of the trigeminal nerve.

Your dog will need some help to eat and drink while he's recovering from trigeminal neuralgia. Most dogs retain some control over the muscles of the face and jaw, but you'll still need to make some concessions to your dog's disabled condition.

Feed your dog soft, easily-chewed food. Raise his food bowl up so he can reach it more easily. Offer your dog water from a water bottle, such as that used to feed large rodents, since he may have problems drinking.

If your dog doesn't recover from trigeminal neuralgia, his facial muscles could atrophy over time from lack of use. If this happens, your dog will eventually lose the ability to eat and drink on his own, and will need more intensive supportive therapy to get by. You may need to feed your dog by hand, inject fluids under his skin, and keep his eyes moist with eye drops. Despite these handicaps, your dog can still enjoy a high quality of life.

Permanent trigeminal neuralgia symptoms in dogs are very rare, however; it's very likely that your dog will recovery full use of his facial muscles within a very short period of time.