Bell's Palsy in Animals


While dogs don't develop Bell's palsy per se, they can come down with a similar condition known as facial nerve paresis or paralysis. Paresis refers to "weakness" rather than complete paralysis. This condition resembles Bell's palsy in people, which is a "temporary facial paralysis resulting from damage or trauma to the facial nerves," according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. If your dog exhibits any signs of facial nerve paralysis, take him to the vet as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment.

Facial Nerve Paralysis

A dog experiencing facial nerve paralysis may be affected on just one side or both sides of his face. The area may include his ears, nose, lips and eyelids. Some dogs may look as if they'd had a stroke, with considerable drooping of one side of the face. The animal may have difficulty eating, or drool out of one side of his mouth.

Affected Breeds

While any dog can come down with facial nerve paralysis, certain breeds are more vulnerable than others. These include:

  • The boxer
  • The cocker spaniel
  • The English setter
  • The Pembroke Welsh corgi. 

Facial nerve paralysis most often occurs in middle-aged dogs.

Diagnosing the Condition

While trauma can cause canine facial nerve paralysis, it's not the only culprit. Other possibilities include:

  • Inner ear infections
  • Cancer
  • Hypothyroidism, or insufficient thyroid hormone production
  • Neuromuscular issues.

Your vet may conduct various tests on your pet to make a diagnosis. These may include blood and urine testing, along with an MRI and X-rays. If your dog's test results come back as normal, he's suffering from "idiopathic facial nerve paralysis." That really means that there's no apparent cause for his condition.

No Real Treatment

Because there's no obvious cause, there's also no obvious treatment for the facial paralysis. For many dogs, it is indeed a temporary problem and they regain full or nearly normal use of their facial muscles within a few weeks. For other dogs, the weakness or paralysis is chronic, although there may be some improvement over time. Acupuncture or massage may speed up the process.

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