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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 30416
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience
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I just noticed today that my 13 year old cocker spaniel

Customer Question

Hi... I just noticed today that my 13 year old cocker spaniel has what appears to be facial paralysis on her left side. She has a droopy lip and can not blink her left eye. I have been having to hand feed her for the past week or so to get her to eat. She does not give me a hard time about eating, she just doesn't want to do it unless I am hand feeding her. Also, you should know that she is VERY prone to ear infections... she has had them many times. Usually the first sign that she is having an ear infection is that my other dog obsessively licks her inner ear (which he has been doing again lately... in fact he is doing it now as I type). She also sleeps a lot, but she has been doing that for the past few years now as she is an older dog. Finally, she has tested positive for lymes disease since she was a puppy. She has always been a carrier, but never showed any symptoms of the disease before. I have read that any of those signs can be a cause for facial paralysis in dogs, which would be fine with me if we can avoid a possible tumor... I just lost my 11 year old golden retriever a week ago from lung cancer, and I can't go through this again so soon! Just wanted to know your thoughts...
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Camille-Mod replied 2 years ago.
Hello, I'm Camille and I’m a moderator for this topic. We have been working with the Experts to try to help you with your question. Sometimes it may take a bit of time to find the right fit. I was checking to see if you had already found your answer or if you still needing assistance from one of our Experts? Please let me know if you wish to continue waiting or if you would like for us to close your question. Also remember that JustAnswer has a multitude of categories to help you with all your needs from Pet to Legal. Thank you, Camille~Moderator
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.
I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. By the principle of Occam's Razor, Pepper's ear infections are the likely cause of chronic changes in her inner/middle ear(s) which are causing the current facial paralysis. Inner ear disease (otitis interna) can affect the facial nerve as it courses through the petrosa bone in contact with the vestibulocochlear nerve. (Now that's some cocktail party talk!) There are quite a few other considerations, however. Here's my synopsis of facial nerve paralysis for you: The symptoms of facial paralysis may include a rapid onset of drooling from one side of the mouth, inability to blink, apparent ear droop and occasional deviation of the nose away from the affected side, and food may collect in the affected commissure of the lips which results in halitosis. His menace and palpebral reflex may be absent and ptosis (eyelid droop) is possible. The main goal of treatment is to prevent corneal ulceration. The remaining manifestations of facial paralysis need no special therapy. Sterile lubricant ophthalmic ointment should be applied to the affected eye(s) at least every 6-8 hours to prevent exposure keratitis (inflammation of the cornea) and corneal ulceration.The prognosis for complete recovery is guarded. Some dogs will regain variable levels of function to the facial nerve but many have some degree of residual deficit. It's important that Pepper's vet (or a specialist veterinary neurologist - please see here: performs a neurologic evaluation to rule out other common causes of facial nerve dysfunction such as otitis media/interna (middle/inner ear infection), hypothyroidism, ear polyps, and polyneuropathies. When they cause facial paralysis, diseases of the central nervous system such as neoplasia, encephalitis, congenital malformations, and trauma are usually accompanied by additional neurologic signs. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.