What are Facial Nerve Paralysis?
Facial nerve paralysis occurs when there is damage to the seventh cranial nerve. The damage causes the muscles of the eyelids, ears, nostrils and lips to become weak or paralyzed. The damage may even disturb the tear glands. This means your cat may have trouble with activities such as eating or changing their facial expression. Face nerve paralysis is also known as facial nerve paresis.
Symptoms of Facial Nerve Paralysis in Cats
Take your cat to the veterinarian if you notice any of the following symptoms, as this could be a sign of face nerve paralysis:
- Excessive drooling
- Problems with eating
- Drooping of lips or ears
- Nostril collapse
- Asymmetry or spasms of the face
- Tilting head towards affected side
- Unusual eye movement or pupil size
- Irritation or discharge of eyes
- Unable to blink or close eyelids
- Uncoordinated movement
- Weakness of muscle or muscle group
There are two types of face nerve paralysis in cats. Your cat may suffer from paralysis of one or both sides of the face.
- One-sided facial nerve paralysis: Can barely move muscles that control facial expressions
- Two-sided facial nerve paralysis: Cannot move lips, eyelids, nostril and ears
Causes of Facial Nerve Paralysis in Cats
There are several factors that cause facial nerve paralysis in cats. The causes of this condition are as follows:
- Idiopathic (undetermined)
- Ear infection
- Neuromuscular disorder
Your cat may also suffer from face nerve paralysis due to an inflammation of the central nervous system. The inflammation causes an infectious or noninfectious disorder that plays a part in the facial nerve paralysis.
Diagnosis of Facial Nerve Paralysis in Cats
A visit to the veterinarian is essential to diagnosing and treating face nerve paralysis in your cat. It is best to write down the symptoms they are displaying and medical history that may contribute to this condition. A surgery or ear infection from the past may be the reason your cat is suffering from face nerve paralysis today. Your veterinarian will give your cat a physical exam and determine if the paralysis is on one or both sides of the face. You can also expect to discuss any past ailments, diseases or injuries that may have caused their current condition.
It may be difficult to find the underlying cause if your cat is not displaying any neurological symptoms. A complete blood count, urinalysis and biochemical profile may come back as normal even if your cat is suffering from facial paralysis. Your cat may have to undergo further tests to rule out other conditions, from a Schirmer tear test to an electromyography.
Your cat may need to be hospitalized to be tested and monitored by the staff. The symptoms, medical history and test results will help your veterinarian make an accurate diagnosis.
Treatment of Facial Nerve Paralysis in Cats
Your veterinarian will start taking the steps to treating your cat once they diagnose the one-sided or two-sided face nerve paralysis. The underlying cause must be treated rather than the actual condition, but the good news is most cases allow your cat to be treated as an outpatient.
Medication may be prescribed to treat the underlying cause of face nerve paralysis. You may also have to administer artificial tears if the underlying cause is an eye problem, such as not being able to produce their own tears.
Your cat may need to undergo ear surgery to remove the inflamed pieces or drain the middle ear.
Soothing The Weak Muscles
There are specific treatments that help sooth the weak muscles, such as an electroacupuncture. It is a form of acupuncture that uses a small electric current with the usual acupuncture needles.
Recovery of Facial Nerve Paralysis in Cats
Your veterinarian will give you instructions for the medication, artificial tears, or care required after surgery. It is important to follow the guidelines as directed so you can treat the underlying cause without damaging the cornea, ears or nerves.
Scheduling a follow-up appointment is an important part of the recovery process. Your veterinarian needs to make sure the underlying cause has been treated. They will also check the function of the facial muscles, such as the eyes and lips.
You may need to continue applying medication or artificial tears to your cat indefinitely.
Ear cleaning may be recommended at home, care is needed to prevent damage the ear or cause an infection. If your cat is having trouble eating due to the weak muscles, switching them to soft food can make feeding time easier.
The prognosis depends on the underlying cause and condition of your cat. Early detection and treatment can result in a full recovery. Unfortunately, there is always a chance the face nerve paralysis will leave permanent damage.