Horner’s Syndrome: Sign of Middle Ear Damage

A facial paralysis, Horner’s may indicate a deeper problem

Because of the nerves traveling close to the middle ear, cats with an ear infection (see p. 6) may have facial nerve paralysis and/or a nerve disorder called Horner’s syndrome.

Facial nerve paralysis causes an inability to blink the eye on the affected side. Blinking is a natural response when you touch your cat near the eyelids or eyelashes. If your cat has a facial nerve paralysis, he will not blink when touched there. Cats with facial nerve paralysis are at risk of developing corneal disease due to their inability to blink.

Horner’s syndrome happens when sympathetic nerves near the middle ear are damaged. The eye on the affected side will look smaller than the normal eye (due to the eyeball sinking back and the upper eyelid drooping), the pupil will be smaller (more of a vertical slit), and the third eyelid will be elevated. Fortunately, Horner’s Syndrome is not painful or dangerous in and of itself. It’s more of an indicator that a middle-ear infection may be present. It usually resolves with resolution of the inflammation in the middle ear.