Brachial Plexus Avulsion in Dogs

Brachial Plexus Avulsion in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost
9 Veterinary Answers

Prepare for unexpected vet bills

Brachial Plexus Avulsion in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Prepare for unexpected vet bills

What is Brachial Plexus Avulsion?

You may notice that your dog begins to limp or have a limb that drops. This may follow an injury and may impact any of his limbs. The drop may be a noticeable inability in flexing and controlling the limb and therefore it just hangs there.

This injury can look similar to a less severe injury, or your dog may not want to put pressure on a broken bone or cut. Your dog may not appear to be in any pain making it difficult to identify what is going on.

The brachial plexus are the last 3 cervical and first 2 thoracic nerves in your dog’s spine which impacts his shoulders. When these nerves are torn, ripped or injured it is referred to as an avulsion. This tends to happen if your dog is hit by a car, or if he falls and there is displacement of the thoracic (backbone) limbs.

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Brachial Plexus Avulsion Average Cost

From 290 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,800

Symptoms of Brachial Plexus Avulsion in Dogs

Symptoms will include the loss of use of your dog’s limbs, changes in his behavior, and other possible medical symptoms.

  • Horner’s Syndrome (drooping eye, small pupil, sunken in eye, prominent third eyelid)
  • Paralysis of a limb
  • Difficulty controlling a limb
  • Limbs dragging
  • Not putting weight on a limb
  • Lack of pain or significant pain when examined 

Types

There are three types of brachial plexus avulsion and they are dependent on what part of the spine is impacted.

Cranial avulsions (C6-C7)

  • Rare
  • Few clinical signs and symptoms
  • Your dog will most likely be able to bear weight on the limb
  • Loss of shoulder movement

Caudal avulsions (C8-T2)

  • More common
  • Cause severe clinical signs
  • Your dog may not be able to extend his elbow or bear weight 
  • Dragging of the limb 
  • May carry the limb flexed off the ground

Complete avulsions (C6-T2)

  • Sensory signs are common
  • Partial Horner’s Syndrome
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Causes of Brachial Plexus Avulsion in Dogs

The cause of brachial plexus avulsion is typically an injury, however there are other causes of the condition as well:

  • If your dog was hit by a car
  • If your dog fell from a significant height
  • If your dog was grabbed incorrectly or roughly
  • Neuromuscular disease
  • Endocrine system disorders
  • Immunization side effect
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Diagnosis of Brachial Plexus Avulsion in Dogs

If you begin to notice that your dog is not putting weight on a limb, dragging a limb, or if there was recent injury, you will want to contact your veterinarian. It will be important to go to your veterinarian or emergency veterinarian prepared to share any recent injuries, falls or events such as if your dog was hit by a car. 

Your veterinarian will want to perform a full body exam to determine any obvious injuries or signs of brachial plexus avulsion. Your veterinarian will want to test your dog’s nerve reactions and see if there is any damage. This may include testing if your dog feels pain when pinched or poked. 

Your veterinarian may want to perform an MRI as it is the imaging tool of choice to determine a brachial plexus injury. Electrodiagnosis testing can also be performed, this test will involve inserting a needle into your dog’s muscle to see how it responds to stimuli. This will help your veterinarian to determine the cause of your dog’s limb concerns 7 to 10 days’ post injury.

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Treatment of Brachial Plexus Avulsion in Dogs

Treatment options are unfortunately limited and long term prognosis is not promising. Your veterinarian may suggest surgery to try and correct some of the damage done to your dog’s nerve endings. It should be noted that if it is a full avulsion (full tearing of your dog’s nerve endings from the spinal cord) the prognosis is poor.

Surgery

Surgery can be done to repair some of the damage done to your dog’s nerve endings. Some of the surgery options are: coaptation splintage, tendon transposition, nerve transposition, ankyloses and amputation. The splintage is done to prevent your dog from harming his limb and is done along with physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications.

Tendon transposition is done by cutting the tendons and either reconnecting them or loosening them to provide your dog with more use of the limb. Nerve transposition is done by reattaching the nerves to other places to try and provide your dog with some of use of his limbs. Amputation may be suggested if your dog will be dragging the limb causing it ongoing injury or if he is self-mutilating the limb. Long term prognosis is poor for full avulsion, however for partial there is a possibility for recovery with treatment.

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Recovery of Brachial Plexus Avulsion in Dogs

Your dog will most likely need ongoing care depending on the severity of his brachial plexus injury. These appointments will be done to determine his condition is getting any worse or if there is any improvement. 

Should he have surgery there will be follow up need per the direction of your veterinarian. A full recovery can be expected within 2 months of surgery. Your veterinarian may also suggest physical therapy once surgery is done and also to try and recover some function.

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Brachial Plexus Avulsion Average Cost

From 290 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,800

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Brachial Plexus Avulsion Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Labrador Retriever

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

She Has Seen A Vet. Hit By A Car. Has Brachial Neuro Praxia

This just happened Monday July 20. She is keeping quiet but going potty & having to move to go outside has been traumatic for both of us. Would it be better to lift her than having her walk. Best to have her immobile for several weeks we know, going outside for her business is tough. Two steps to maneuver. Better to lift her? Just not sure what’s best.

July 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. There are actually slings that you can buy to help with this specific problem, where their arms and legs go through and you can help support them while they move around. If you cannot find that online, your veterinarian should be able to help you find it. They are not particularly expensive, and they work quite well. Another option is to take a sheet and loop it under her body so that you can hold it from above and help support her. I hope that helps and that she feels better soon.

July 25, 2020

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Barney

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Cavapoo

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4 Years

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Weak Front Leg

Hi. I have a cavapoo who was involved in a RTA. 2 mo this ago.He had various injuries, but most are healing now. His front right leg is still lame when walking, but moves both front legs together happily , but can put it to the ground when standing And walking slowly. With a very little weight bearing. He is diagnosed with brachial plexus, hopefully just stretched though. My question is how long do you generally wait for improvement, should I be taking him for short exercise (5-10 mins) to help with muscle strength now as advised by My specialist vet.

Aug. 3, 2018

Barney's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Injuries to the brachial plexus can take a long time to heal, and may never fully resolve. If Barney seems to be using that leg more and bearing weight, that is a good sign. If your specialist has advised short walks to keep those muscles strong, now would be a good time to do that so that they don't atrophy.

Aug. 3, 2018

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Brachial Plexus Avulsion Average Cost

From 290 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,800

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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