What Causes Facial Paralysis In Dogs And How To Treat It

If you feel your dog has a crooked smile and can’t lift one side of its face, changing in facial expression, he may undergo the condition of facial nerve paralysis. 

What is facial paralysis?

Facial paralysis is a familiar issue in dogs, specifically in the middle- to older dogs. Facial paralysis usually occurs due to damage to the facial nerve, known as cranial nerve VII. After the damage to muscles, the face becomes droopy.     

The nerve dysfunction can appear on one side of the face (unilateral) or both sides of the face (bilateral). The seventh cranial nerve has various functions to control the muscles’ movement. The facial nerve attaches to the muscle and prevents the eyelids, nose, ear, lips, and cheeks.

Causes of facial paralysis                  

Dogs are affected mainly by idiopathic nerve paralysis. Facial paralysis in dogs is not due to brain diseases, but sometimes it directly damages the nerve involved in facial muscle control and links with the back of the brain. There are some causes of facial paralysis:

  • Head trauma and rough handling
  • The toxin botulism
  • Endocrine disorders like Diabetes Mellitus, Hypothyroidism, and Cushing disease.
  • Otitis media and Otitis interna (about 50% of dogs affected)
  • Metabolic disorders like neurotoxins, peripheral inflammation, and neoplasia of facial nerve
  • Tumors of the brain (lymphoma or strokes in the brain)
  • Iatrogenic
  • Flushing of external ear canal during surgery
  • Auto-immune inflammatory condition (meningitis/encephalitis)

The damage to the facial nerve interferes with the tear gland and affects its proper functioning. It could also lead to dry eye syndrome, also known as keratoconjunctivitis when the eyes cannot produce tears anymore.

Signs and symptoms occur in facial paralysis

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  • Drooping of lips and ear
  • Falling of food from the side of the mouth
  • Dribbling of saliva
  • Extensive separation of the eyelids (upper and lower)
  • Unable to blink
  • The ooze of pus from the affected eye
  • Decrease in tearing on one side
  • One ear is held down as compared to the other one (unilateral)
  • The nose’s deviation toward the unaffected side may not be symmetrical
  • Corneal ulceration may occur if the eye does not produce enough tears

Types of facial paralysis

There are two types of facial nerve paralysis

  1. The complete paralysis (severe dysfunction) in which facial muscles cannot move is very severe.
  2. A milder form of facial nerve paralysis (milder dysfunction) in which little movement of eyelids, lips, cheeks, and ear is possible.

Can pets recover from facial nerve paralysis?

There are 30-50% chances of recovering your dog from facial paralysis. According to different studies, one-third of that diagnosed with facial paralysis have a complete recovery within three years. The lubrication of the eye should continue if the muscle does not back. Some conditions may be worse, and some are flexible and easy to treat. Let the veterinarian decide what is best for your pet.

How to treat facial nerve paralysis in dogs?

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The treatment of your pet should base on a diagnostic testing procedure. A physical examination of a dog is necessary to determine the affected muscle. Symptomatic treatment is recommended in this regard. Each symptom needs a different treatment regime. For example, the cornea may require a long time of lubrication and more care to avoid ulcers. Regular checkups and frequent treatment are needed for corneal ulcers.

A dog requires antibiotics if he is suffering from an ear infection, sometimes requires surgical intervention, and needs immunosuppressive medication in case of meningitis. The treatment is comfortable in idiopathic facial paralysis. MRI helps to evaluate the condition of inflammation (meningitis) and is paired with a spinal tap.

The tumor is also a cause of facial paralysis and can affect the middle ear and facial nerve. The otoscope is used to examine the middle ear. The use of special imaging, CT, and MRI permits diagnosis.           

In case of nose problems like crusting, dryness, and collapse of nostrils, the facial nerve supports the gland function in the nasal passages. To manage this condition, uses a clean towel and hot water to cleanse the debris.

The thyroid gland deficiency (hypothyroidism) can cause facial paralysis, and this condition requires replacement therapy. The thyroid replacement therapy can solve the paralysis completely.

Electromyography helps to evaluate the severity of the injury. Any particular therapy is not available to treat injury except Electroacupuncture, applied heat to affected muscles, low-level light therapy, and massage. Animals require soft food and water.

The regeneration of the facial nerve is slow, and the neurologist examination helps to determine recovery. If there is no improvement after six months, recovery chances are feeble.

Conclusion

The uncomplicated facial paralysis is not a life-threatening disorder; immediate testing and revealing the problem is necessary to save your pet from pain. If you see sudden symptoms of drooping in your dog, you must contact to vet. 

Last Updated on August 22, 2022 by Shepped Team

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