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By Dr. Jerry Northington

Trigeminal Neuritis

Trigeminal neuritis is a poorly understood, probably inflammatory or autoimmune disease affecting some branches of the trigeminal nerve (Cranial Nerve V). Animals are presented with inability to close the jaw and difficulty taking food into the mouth and may appear to have difficulty swallowing. Many affected animals drool excessively. Sensation across the face, lip movement, tongue strength and tone, and mentation may remain normal or not in affected animals.

DIAGNOSIS: A tentative clinical diagnosis may be made on the basis of clinical signs. Electromyography (electrical tests of nerves and muscles) or muscle biopsy may be used for confirmation. Other possibilities including rabies infection must be ruled out by history. Tumor and odd infections must be pursued if the signs fail to resolve in a few weeks or if any other signs are noted.

TREATMENT: Glucocorticoid (steroid) therapy has been recommended, but there is no substantial evidence of efficacy. Animals recover within 2-3 weeks in most instances with or without treatment. Treatment with steroids or immunosuppressive drugs is in order if the condition fails to resolve after 3 weeks.

The biggest issue is feeding. Animals may be fed soggy meatballs of food dropped from a height. Holding the jaw closed may aid swallowing. As a last resort some form of feeding tube may be put in place. Most animals lose 10-15% of the body weight during the course of recovery. So long as very wet feedings are maintained dehydration is not a usual concern.

Once recovery is complete no future signs and no return of signs is to be expected.

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