Facial nerve paresis is a condition that affects the seventh cranial nerve, known as the facial nerve. It is characterized by the paralysis or weakness of the muscles in the ears, eyelids, lips, and nostrils of dogs. In this article, we will explore the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options for this condition. If you notice any signs of facial nerve paralysis in your beloved furry friend, it is important to consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and care.
Symptoms and Types
The symptoms of facial nerve paralysis in dogs can vary, but some common indicators include messy eating with food left around the mouth, food falling from the side of the mouth, excessive drooling, and the inability to close the eye properly. Other signs may include a wide separation between the upper and lower eyelids, decreased or absent menace response and eyelid reflex, facial asymmetry, ear and lip drooping, collapse of the nostril, chronic deviation of the face towards the affected side, occasional facial spasms, discharge of pus from the affected eye, and somnolence or stupor.
There are various causes of facial nerve paresis in dogs. In some cases, the cause may remain unknown (idiopathic). Other possible causes include metabolic conditions such as hypothyroidism, inflammatory factors like otitis media-interna (inflammation of the inner ear), the presence of nasopharyngeal polyps (benign growths that can occur at the back of the throat, middle ear, or even perforate the ear drum), cancer, traumatic injuries, iatrogenic factors (physician-induced), and more. Two-sided facial nerve paresis can be caused by idiopathic factors, inflammatory and immune-mediated conditions, metabolic issues like cancer affecting the nerves, toxic substances such as botulism, pituitary neoplasm, and infectious factors like Lyme disease (although not yet proven in dogs).
To diagnose facial nerve paresis in dogs, it is essential to provide a thorough history of your dog’s health, the onset of symptoms, and any possible incidents that might have preceded the condition. Your veterinarian will conduct a physical examination and determine whether the paresis is one-sided or affecting both sides. Other neurological signs will also be assessed. In some cases, the cause may remain unknown, but various tests such as blood profiles, X-rays, CT scans, or MRI may be used to detect the location of the problem. Additional tests can evaluate tear production, motor nerve conduction speed, and the presence of brainstem disease.
Treatment for facial nerve paresis in dogs is typically provided on an outpatient basis. In some cases, hospitalization may be required for further testing. The condition may improve naturally over time, with fiber development in the muscles reducing asymmetry and drooling ceasing within two to four weeks. However, it is important to be prepared for the possibility of permanent clinical signs or their return. The other side of the face may also become affected. Long-term lubrication of the cornea may be necessary, especially in breeds with natural bulging of the eyes. Regular checks for corneal ulcers are also recommended. Most dogs tolerate this nerve deficit well, but surgery may be necessary for middle ear disorders that cause severe discomfort.
Living and Management
After the initial treatment, your veterinarian will want to reevaluate your dog’s condition to monitor for any superficial loss of tissue on the cornea and the presence of corneal ulcers. Monthly assessments will be conducted to evaluate the return of normal function, including reflexes of the eye and eyelids, lip and ear movements. Eye care is crucial, with frequent lubrication or application of artificial tears to the affected cornea.
Remember, if you suspect that your dog is experiencing facial nerve paralysis, consult with a veterinarian for proper evaluation and care. For more pet health-related articles, visit Katten TrimSalon.