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Common Diseases of the Cranial Nerves of the Horse
  by Robert N. Oglesby DVM


Introduction » Blindness » Asymmetry of the Facial Muscles » Head Tilt, Eye Tick (Nystagmus), and/or Incoordination » Excessive Respiratory Noise » Difficulty Swallowing (dysphagia) » More Info 

Cranial nerves are nerve bundles that emerge from the brain, travel through skull foramina (holes) and innervate both sensory organs and the motor muscles of the head. There are twelve sets of nerves that are defined by both their location and function:
Cranial Nerve Function Cranial Nerve Name
Smell olfactory nerve (CN I)
Vision optic nerve (CN II)
Eye Movement oculomotor nerve (CN III)
trochlear nerve (CN IV)
abducens nerve (CN VI)
Sensation from the face
Motor to the muscles for biting, chewing
trigeminal (CN V)
Facial expression
Taste from the anterior 2/3rds of the tonque
Salivaton (except from parotic gland)
Tearing (lacrimal gland).
facial nerve (CN VII)
vestibulocochlear (CN VIII)
Taste from the posterior 1/3rd of the tonque
Salivation from the parotid gland.
Sensation and some motor to the pharynx.
glossopharyngeal nerve (CN IX)
Swallowing (motor to the muscles of the soft palate, pharynx and larynx)
Vocalization (motor to the muscles of the soft palate, pharynx and larynx)
Heart rate (sensory and motor control of viscera including heart, lungs, and bowel)
gastrointestinal peristalsis
vagus nerve (CN X)
Neck muscles that move the head. accessory nerve (CN XI)
Tongue movement
hypoglossal nerve (CN XII)
The cranial nerves are numbered in order of appearance from the skull starting at the front of the brain and moving backward. Diseases effecting the cranial nerves is common in the horse and include:
  • blindness
  • asymmetry of the facial muscles (facial nerve paralysis)
  • head tilt, eye tick (nystagmus) and/or incoordination (ataxia)
  • excessive respiratory noise
  • difficulty swallowing
In this article we will cover some of the common presentations of cranial nerve disease, causes, diagnosis, and treatment. Links to more specific articles are provided where available.
      ~Word Count: 1641 words (The average magazine page contains about 600 words);
      ~Last Updated: July 10, 2015;
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Discussions on Cranial Nerve Diseases
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iconNerve Damage?Jun 22, 09
iconNew Article: Cranial Nerve DysfunctionJan 5, 09
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