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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.

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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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

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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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0 found helpful

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

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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0 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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Jojo

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Boxer

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

My dog recently underwent emergent splenectomy for ruptured spleen. Histology still pending. Its POD 4 and she has overall recovered well except one drastic complication. We tried getting her up and she has weakness and paralysis in her front limbs. One limb can bear some weight but she has limited control over it. The other front limb is flaccid. Edema is present and has been resolving but the vet is blaming vasculitis and subsequent nerve compression. I on the other hand believe this is from poor positioning during surgery and over stretching of the brachial plexus.

June 6, 2018

Jojo's Owner

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0 Recommendations

I haven’t experienced issues with the brachial plexus avulsion due to malpositioning during surgery; to have a full avulsion to the point where the limb is flaccid would require a lot of force. This would need to be examined to fully weigh in with an opinion and I would recommend that once discharged from the clinic you ask another Veterinarian to perform an examination to determine a cause to see if they believe it is an avulsion. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 6, 2018

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Lady

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lab

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3

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Limping
Flacid Front Leg
No Sensation

My dog Lady was hit by a car and has a brachial plexus injury. It has only been 3 weeks but our vet is already recommending amputation. I am wondering if we should get her an MRI or CT scan to better see her injury before amputating her leg. She is 3 years old and a lab mix. The vet has said she is deep pain negative and has a less than 5% chance of recovering function. We just don't know if it is good to move forward with the amputation this week or if it is best to wait 4-6 weeks to give her a better shot at recovery. If she were to recover would her leg work or just feel pain? We just don't want to make a rash decision for our baby girl!

Dec. 13, 2017

Lady's Owner

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1 Recommendations

If the leg is flaccid with no pain sensation then the chance of recovery is less than 5%, but you have every right to give it longer to see if any sensation comes back; just ensure that the leg is bandaged so that the leg doesn’t get damaged whilst she is walking. Amputation would be the next step and is generally tolerated well by dogs (much better than the owners); discuss this with your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Dec. 13, 2017

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Marvin

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Labrador Retriever

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19 Months

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

My lab has been diagnosed with nerve damage affecting his front leg which he is reluctant to put weight on. He yelps if his elbow is moved. The vet confirmed he has sensation in his paw and thinks it is likely the trauma took place by him jumping or getting his leg stuck. How likely is he to make a full recovery?

Sept. 30, 2017

Marvin's Owner

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1 Recommendations

Prognosis is dependent on which nerve(s) are affected, but generally if he has pain sensation and is reluctant to put weight on it, it is more favourable than something like complete brachial plexus avulsion which would result in a flaccid limb with no pain sensation. Each case is different, but with rest and pain management reasonable improvement can be expected; your Veterinarian would be able to tell you more. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Sept. 30, 2017

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ellie

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Mutt

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3 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Knuckling Under And Dragging Foot

my three year old mutt got hit by car. has brachial plexus. Have been doing therapy and magnetic therapy will that help? Its been four weeks and she has muscle sensation, will give me her paw on that leg. vet said she has feeing

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Milo

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Labrador Retriever

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1 Year

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Paralysis
Numbness
Brachial Plexus Injury

My poor baby, Milo, jumped out of the car last week. He was on a leash that I had around my hand, but out he went. Fortunately, we weren't going very fast and there were no broken bones (just some mild road rash). However, Milo is suffering brachial plexus injury symptoms in his left front arm. He is able to walk on three legs, but does not have sensation of the leg and is knuckling his paw under. He can hold the paw up slightly but not much. When he was admitted to the ER, they claimed he had zero deep pain perception and that we would most likely have to amputate. Heart breaking, but so happy I got to take my baby home. Next, we went to a neurologist who thought he might actually have some deep pain since his panting stopped whenever she would squeeze between his toes. I am not too sure if I should get my hopes up, but he is scheduled to start PT on Thursday. Hopefully, we will know more then. We are going to do everything we can to save the leg, but I am not too sure what is going to happen. I have yet to read/hear a successful rehabilitation of this kind of injury, so I am super nervous to see the outcomes of the PT

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Izzy

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German Shepherd

dog-age-icon

5 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

Our dog jumped out of our car while we were driving. After rushing her to the vet we were told she had no broken bones but suffered from Brachial Plexus. At that time she has no feeling but could move her shoulder. Over the next few days we were told that she had some feeling in her toes. She is in a full cast and is getting checked weekly. I noticed when I play with her toes she no longer moves her foot. Could that feeling have gone away?

Brachial Plexus Avulsion Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$1,800

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