As a dog owner, dog paralysis back legs is perhaps the most frightening thing that may happen to your pooch. A loss in mobility might mean the end for your dog, yet it does not have to be. There’s plenty it’s possible to do to take care of your dog if he suffers from partial (where the dog can't move back legs) or full paralysis.
There are different paralysis dog types. There are some dog hind leg paralysis sudden cases, whereas others may develop over time. Read further to learn about measures you can take if your pet ever experiences partial (dogs back legs not working) or full paralysis as well as preventatives steps that ensure that your dog never has to suffer this debilitating condition.
What Are the Types and Signs of Dog Paralysis?
Sudden paralysis in dogs is caused as communication between the brain and spinal cord has been disrupted. Occasionally the dog won’t have the ability to move at all and have full paralysis, whereas other times your pup only may appear weak, or have a hard time moving.
The 3 paralysis in dog types are:
- Tetraplegia – Not able to move all 4 legs
- Paraplegia – dog can’t move back legs, not able to move the hind legs or (dog loses use of back legs temporarily)
- Paresis – Partial paralysis, able to be mobile, but not easily
Paralysis in dog symptoms may range from obvious indications to subtler ones, depending upon the trauma’s location.
But there are many things to be on the lookout for:
- Incapability of controlling bowel movements or urination
- Pain in the legs, spine, or neck
- Hard time moving around
- Walking with front legs while dragging his hind legs or dog back leg not working
- Refusing to get up, or incapability of moving any of his legs
Causes of Dog Paralysis
If your pet was hit by an automobile or recently experienced another traumatic situation, the cause of your pet’s paralysis is obvious. But, periodically, symptoms might appear suddenly, out of nowhere. Identifying the canine paralysis cause will help your vet make the proper diagnosis and cover the best action plan to help your dog possibly regain mobility.
There are many common environmental causes and underlying conditions which may cause dog paralysis, which includes:
The main cause of dog paralysis is tick bites.
Specific tick species will inject a neurotoxin into your pet’s bloodstream as they bite. The toxin may trigger an abrupt neuron paralysis, which sometimes, might result in sudden paralysis. As this occurs, you must address the problem as fast as you can. If left neglected, the paralysis is going to spread and even can become deadly. Tick paralysis is more than often caused by several ticks, yet occasionally it just takes a single tick to trigger paralysis.
Common indications that your pet was bitten by a tick involve vomiting and a loss of coordination. Some canines even may experience changes in the quality and tone of their bark. The symptoms usually will start to appear 6 - 9 days after a tick attaches itself to your dog’s skin.
Thankfully, tick bite paralysis may easily be treated using medicine.
There are many conditions in canines that may leave them more predisposed to developing this condition.
Chief among them is IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease) (more on that in the next paragraph). IVDD mostly affects chondrodystrophic dog breeds, or canines that have abnormally short legs, such as Dachshunds. It’s a condition which occurs as the cushioning intervertebral discs in between the vertebrae of their spinal column become burst or ruptured into the spinal cord area. As this occurs, the discs press on nerves which run through their spinal cord, potentially causing paralysis.
IVDD: What is it?
As aforementioned, IVDD happens as the intervertebral discs in between the spinal column’s vertebrae become displaced, bulge out, deteriorate, burst, or rupture into the space of the dog’s spinal cord. As this occurs, the discs press upon nerves which run through their spinal cord, causing nerve damage, pain, and in serious cases, dog paralysis.
Sometimes, IVDD is called a herniated or slipped disc. It’s among the most typical neurological problems in dogs and reportedly impacts 2% of the canine population.
To understand this disease, you have to take a look into the intervertebral column. A dog’s spine is comprised of individual vertebrae. They consist of 7 vertebrae inside the neck, 13 thoracic vertebrae inside the back, 7 vertebrae inside the dog’s lower back, 3 fused sacral vertebrae, as well as vertebrae inside the tail.
The majority of canine vertebrae comprise of a body at the base, a side pedicle and top, as well as dorsal spinous process. Their spinal cord is protected by and travels through the vertebral canal. In between the majority of those vertebrae is an intervertebral disc. These discs are comprised of the inner nucleus pulposus, and the outer annulus fibrosus.
It’s possible to imagine a healthy disc as a jelly doughnut, in which the nucleus pulposus involves the jelly in the center and the annulus fibrosus is the outer doughnut. Intervertebral discs act as cushions between vertebrae. As discs become unhealthy, the jelly portion of the doughnut dries out, blood supply to the dog’s disc slows down, and it doesn’t repair itself as it begins degenerating.
As the process of drying out happens, the outer doughnut weakens, then the canine becomes more susceptible to injury. Simplistic daily tasks such as jumping off of a chair or walking will cause this exterior portion of the disc to tear. It’ll cause jelly middle to squeeze out and create bigger issues.
IVDD mainly happens in a canine’s neck or last couple ribs to their low back space. A neck lesion might impact a canine’s front legs or the rear and front, whereas a back lesion will impact the back portion of the pup’s body.
What canines are more at risk for this disease?
There are a multitude of dog breeds at a higher risk of intervertebral disc disease. These canines are mostly categorized as chondrodystrophic dog breeds, or breeds that have unusually short legs. Dog breeds include Beagles, Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, Bulldogs, Cocker Spaniels, Corgis, Shih-Tzus, Pekingese, as well as Miniature Poodles. This disease primarily occurs when the canines are 3- to 6-years-old or middle-aged.
In addition, IVDD affects some non-chondrodystrophic dogs, like Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, as well as Doberman Pinschers. For non-chondrodystrophic breeds, IVDD is more common in the ones that are aged 8 – 10 years.
Whether chondrodystrophic or not, overweight canines are more at risk.
One other common dog paralysis cause is DM (Degenerative Myelopathy). The genetic disease attacks the spine’s nerves in older dogs, and is a progressive, slow acting disorder which ultimately causes paralysis of the rear legs. Dog breeds impacted by this disease are the Irish Setter, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, German Shepherd, Boxer, and Welsh Corgi. Also, larger dogs are prone to a disorder referred to as Fibrocartilaginous Embolism. It occurs as a small part of a spinal disc breaks off of the dog’s spinal column, then blocks blood flow to a part of the body. It may result in a painless and usually temporary paralysis which typically will resolve on its own within a few weeks.
Trauma and Accidents
Dog paralysis that is caused by trauma or accidents generally results in permanent damage. This trauma may be from shock or due to an accident. In instances in which there’s no injury to the motor area, the dog paralysis generally is temporary.
There are multiple infections which may cause paralysis if they spread to a dog’s brain. Those include distemper, rabies, and meningitis among others.
Infections oftentimes arise from exterior contact with wild animals or if your pet eats a harmful non-food item. Its cause depends on the symptoms, such as vomiting, fever, and diarrhea. The vet can perform tests to discover the specific infection.
Rabies and distemper impact your pet by generating viruses to the brain, which may cause paralysis. It’s why the rabies vaccination is forced by law for canines. Infections to your pet’s ears and face, when untreated effectively or early, also can cause paralysis if they spread.
A tumor development in the spine of your dog also can lead to paralysis. Those tumors generally are malignant and may have a life-threatening effect. The tumors may impact your pet’s nervous system so long as they stay in his body. Spinal tumors may affect your pet’s limbs, which may in turn, lead to paralysis.
Tumors often will cause paralysis at a more gradual rate than tick bites, which results in slower symptoms instead of sudden paralysis.
Dog Paralysis: How is it diagnosed?
Along with your vet, you’ll discuss a full history of your pet’s health, his onset of symptoms, as well as incidents which might’ve led to his condition. In cases of trauma, such as being hit by a vehicle, the cause is obvious, whereas others may be more deeply rooted problems. The vet will assess your furry friend, record his movements, and review how he reacts to reflex exams, as well as his capability of feeling pain in all 4 legs. The vet also will check the legs, spine, and head for signs of sensitivity and pain.
It’ll help the vet determine the problem’s source. Laboratory tests are performed to check for extra infection, and X-rays check for abnormalities with the vertebrae. Special X-rays referred to as myelograms might be performed to see the spinal cord. Biopsies, MRIs, and CT scans also may be performed.
What Are the Dog Paralysis Treatment Options?
Dog paralysis isn’t just frustrating for the dog, yet also for the owner. Although you might first think your pet’s life is over, there are many assistive devices and treatments which will assist your dog in performing daily activities and in most instances, regain mobility.
Your pet’s treatment options depend on the paralysis cause. Once the vet diagnoses the cause, and assesses the severity, he’ll put together an action plan. This may include physical therapy, surgery, and medication.
Dogs that have paralysis caused by infection are administered a course of medicine and potentially surgery. An anti-inflammatory is prescribed to calm swollen nerves, whereas IVDD often is surgically treated. Similarly, blockages of blood flow or tumors may be surgically repaired, depending upon the location. Catheters might be necessary to help your pet empty his bladder.
Hydrotherapy sometimes is used for postoperative pets who cannot stand normally yet. These exercises inactive muscles via water pressure. Additional therapies include heat and cold therapy to relax your pet and decrease pain, skin lesion laser removal, magnetic therapy for muscle relaxation, as well as electrical stimulation that increases blood flow and stimulates nerves and muscles, and massages.
Some pets will quickly recover after treatment, whereas others might have to remain in the hospital for a time period to be observed, or until he has the ability to walk. Other periods the veterinarian will send you home with your pet with a certain recovery strategy. This strategy comes with checkpoints in order for you to adjust as your pet improves.
How to manage paralysis at home
Dogs often can survive dog paralysis with correct care. Paralysis usually is sudden and almost impossible to predict, yet with the assistance of your veterinarian, you’ll oftentimes have the ability to discover the cause. Then, the vet will assist you in making a home care strategy.
If your pet becomes paralyzed, it does not mean their life is over. Paralyzed canines may live happy lives because of the dedication of you, their pet owner. It’s a major commitment which takes keen observation and patience yet might be worth it to you to help prolong the life of your dog. Below we list some things to do to improve your paralyzed pet’s quality of life.
Harnesses and Wheelchairs
There are several carts or wheelchairs made for dogs that have medical problems such as paralysis. Also, most dedicated pet owners rig up their own at home. Oftentimes, dogs will adapt well to a wheelchair and get accustomed to getting around with one. Wheelchairs mainly are used for dogs that have paralysis to their rear legs, yet with strong front legs.
In addition, harnesses also can be helpful to aid your dog in getting around and even continually going on walks. Those special harnesses permit you to lift your pet’s rear legs while they stroll with their front legs. Incorrect usage might cause more harm to your furry companion; therefore, ensure that you speak to your vet before you use one.
Buy an orthopedic bed for your furry pal to cushion his pressure points, as well as keep them from forming ulcers. Be certain the liner and bed are both washable and regularly wash them.
Regularly Groom Your Pet
Paralyzed dogs often do not have the ability to appropriately groom themselves; therefore, some of that job will be up to you. Keep up their hygiene so you can help keep them happy and healthy.
Bathe your pet every couple of days using a moisturizing shampoo to avoid over drying. Also, dry pet shampoo might be helpful for spot cleaning between shampoos. In addition, baby wipes are excellent for keeping your pet’s skin moist and cleaning fur.
Manage Your Pet’s Bladder
Most paralyzed dogs can’t urinate be themselves. A bit of urine in your pet’s bedding might be an indication that his bladder is full. If his bladder isn’t routinely emptied, it may cause other infections. If your pet does not have the ability to urinate by himself, your vet will teach you how to help him empty his bladder. There also are diapers on the market for pets to avoid messes.
If your pal experiences leakage, be certain to immediately wipe away any urine, because it may burn your pet’s skin.
Healthy Skin Maintenance
Paralyzed pups need lots of help in maintaining a healthy coat and skin. They oftentimes cannot feel it if their skin is chafing or rubbing, and sores may appear in vulnerable spaces such as ankles, hips, and elbows. If sores develop, permanent padding or bandaging might be necessary.
Exercise is challenging for paralyzed dogs; however, there still are things it’s possible to do to maintain your pet’s muscle tone and flexibility. There are some range of motion exercises which will be advantageous to some dogs. In addition, dog massages will improve blood circulation, as well as soothe sore joints and muscles. Your vet will teach you how to do both.
While taking care of a paralyzed pet is a huge job, it may come with several rewards. Correct care is important to prolong your dog’s life; therefore, be certain that you follow your vet’s treatment strategy, and enjoy the extra time with your pet.
Studies have shown that phytocannabinoids and CBD are effective in relaxation and bringing balance and calm to dogs who experience a variety of health conditions. In this anxious time for both you and your dog, it might be possible to help your dog through this process with the help of CBD Oil for Dogs. For more information about CBD oil for pets contact Innovet Pet Products today!
Dr. Sara Ochoa
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, St. Georges University
Sara Redding Ochoa, DVM was raised in north Louisiana. She graduated from LA Tech in 2011 with a degree in animal science. She then moved to Grenada West Indies for veterinary school. She completed her clinical year at Louisiana State University and graduated in 2015 from St. George’s University. Since veterinary school she has been working at a small animal and exotic veterinary clinic in east Texas, where she has experience treating all species that walk in the hospital. In her free time, she likes to travel with her husband Greg, bake yummy desserts and spend time with her 4-legged fur kids, a dog Ruby, a cat Oliver James “OJ”, a rabbit BamBam and a tortoise MonkeyMan.
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Please do not ask for emergency or specific medical questions about your pets in the comments. Innovet Pet Products is unable to provide you with specific medical advice or counseling. A detailed physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinarian are required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet requires emergency attention or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic health conditions, please contact or visit your local/preferred veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.
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