Weakness/Paralysis of the Facial Muscles Due to Nerve Damage in Rabbits

4 min read



Rabbits are usually seen on an outpatient basis, but inpatient hospitalization may be required for the initial diagnoses and evaluations, or if your rabbit is severely ill. Depending on your doctor's findings, surgery may be required. But treatment generally consists of flushing and cleansing the ear, or ears, with cleaning solution, swabbing with cotton swab, and vacuum suctioning any debris from the ear. Artificial tears may also be used to prevent the eyes from drying.


Living and Management


It is important that your rabbit continue to eat during and following treatment. Encourage oral fluid intake by offering fresh water, wetting leafy vegetables, or flavoring water with vegetable juice, and offer a large selection of fresh, moistened greens such as cilantro, romaine lettuce, parsley, carrot tops, dandelion greens, spinach, collard greens, and good-quality grass hay. Also, offer your rabbit its usual pelleted diet, as the initial goal is to get the rabbit to eat and to maintain its weight and nutritional status. If your rabbit refuses these foods, you will need to syringe feed a gruel mixture until it can eat again on its own. And unless your veterinarian has specifically advised it, do not feed your rabbit high-carbohydrate, high-fat nutritional supplements.


Discuss eye care with your veterinarian, since the eye on the affected side may need lubrication due to loss of tear production. Also, keep in mind that the other side can become affected as well. Monitor your rabbit, and report any changes to your veterinarian if they should occur.


If your rabbit is exhibiting severe head tilt, you will need to support its head in a suitable position to prevent choking. Muscle paralysis is usually permanent, but as muscle healing and thickening develops, a natural "tuck up" may occur that reduces the facial asymmetry (lopsidedness). Other than the change in outward appearance that this paralysis can cause, most rabbits are able to tolerate this nerve deficit and will adjust with little difficulty.