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What are Leg Paralysis?

Peripheral spinal nerve damage is often the cause of leg paralysis. This can have a spiral effect, causing secondary damage, pain, and loss of nerve connection to the muscles, leading them to wither. Conditions that can affect the nerves and cause paralysis include injuries, infections, muscle or spinal conditions, or severe toxic exposures to certain chemicals. Paralysis can be partial or full, affecting one or all four legs. While some conditions can be remedied through surgery, others may not be able to be treated and will require supportive, lifelong care as the limb will not be functional.

Leg paralysis in dogs occurs when one or more legs lose the ability to function. Often seen as limping or dragging of the limb in dogs, it can point to nerve or muscular damage. This can lead to destruction of the nerve sheaths, tissue decay, joint and muscle damage, or atrophy as the affected dog loses the ability to flex or move that limb.

Leg Paralysis Average Cost

From 450 quotes ranging from $800 - $10,000

Average Cost

$5,000

Symptoms of Leg Paralysis in Dogs

Symptoms of leg paralysis in dogs include:

  • Inability to flex joint in affected leg
  • Inability to bear weight on affected leg 
  • Pain
  • Lameness
  • Weakness
  • Abnormal gait
  • Shift in weight
  • Limb dragging
  • Horner’s syndrome, or issues with the eye on the same side as affected limb

Types

  • Front leg paralysis is often caused by damage to the neck and shoulder nerve roots, or in the radial, median or ulnar nerves in the affected leg
  • Hind leg paralysis is associated with nerve root damage in the tailbone or lower back, or in the tibial, femoral, peroneal, or sciatic nerve in the affected leg
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Causes of Leg Paralysis in Dogs

Conditions that can cause leg paralysis can include:

  • Neurological condition
  • Musculoskeletal condition
  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Tumor
  • Viral diseases, including distemper and rabies
  • Fungal diseases
  • Protozoal diseases, such as neosporosis
  • Tick toxicity
  • Granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis
  • Injuries and trauma
  • Severe exposure to pesticides and insecticides containing organophosphates
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Diagnosis of Leg Paralysis in Dogs

Cases of leg paralysis can offer a myriad of causes, and your veterinarian will take into consideration many factors when coming to a positive diagnosis of this condition. Observations including your dog’s gait and posture, any pain present, conditions of muscles in the affected limb, and spinal reflexes can help to locate the source of injury. Recovery is better the closer the associated nerve damage is to the muscle. Your veterinarian will also look at how well your dog can flex an associated joint, reflexes in other places in the leg, and how well he can bear weight on that limb. Electrical stimulation can be used to see if the nerve is still intact.

Information that can help guide your veterinarian to a correct diagnosis of the cause of the paralysis can include any symptoms noticed, exposure to pesticides or insecticides, exposure to other animals, exposure to tick ridden areas, and medical history. Other tests that can provide valuable information include CT scans, MRIs, X-rays, myelography, surgical biopsies, blood tests, cerebrospinal fluid tests, tissue samples, physical examination, and the visible presence of a tick or skin crater.

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Treatment of Leg Paralysis in Dogs

Treatment of leg paralysis is often targeted at the underlying cause. Many joint and muscle issues can be remedied through surgery and supportive care. When the cause is nerve related, recovery will depend on the nerve sheath condition and the distance between the injury and where the nerve ends. While some nerve damage can resolve over many weeks or months, more severe cases can require surgical reattachment. A light bandage is often applied to the affected limb during recovery, and a sling can be added to prevent the leg from dragging. Supplementary care includes giving your dog massages, applying heat and stretching the tendons to keep them healthy while the nerve regenerates. Acupuncture may be prescribed. The recovery is good if movement, spinal reflexes and pain sensations improve in the next 1 to 2 months.

In the case of tumors, surgery can be used for removal. Nerve sheath tumors can affect many nerves at once, and can be more difficult to remove. Recovery for this type of tumor is poor.

Viral diseases have no treatment, and recovery is poor in affected animals. Fungal infections can be difficult to treat, and while some success is seen with the drug fluconazole, recovery is uncertain. Very severe cases of tick toxicity can call for artificial ventilation. Treatment involves tick removal and antibiotics, and recovery is often good. 

With granulomatous meningoencephalo-myelitis, dogs can temporarily improve with drug therapies, but long term recovery is guarded. There are no treatments for degenerative myelopathy, and often supportive care is all that can be done. This is through physical rehabilitation, pressure sore prevention, monitoring for conditions like urinary infections, and creating an increased mobility with harnesses and carts.

In some cases, amputation of the paralyzed leg may be recommended. Many three-legged dogs can live happy and functional lives.

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Recovery of Leg Paralysis in Dogs

The recovery of leg paralysis in your dog will depend entirely on the underlying condition and the state of any damaged nerves involved. While there is a good chance of recovery in many cases with supportive care, surgery and other treatments, there are conditions without treatments available. In cases of a viral infection, prevention through vaccination is the best course to ensure your dog is not affected.

Your veterinarian will create a treatment and recovery plan based on your dog’s specific condition, which may include home supportive care and monitoring. In the case of degenerative myelopathy, efforts will be focused towards creating a better quality of life for your dog during the progression of the disease.

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Leg Paralysis Average Cost

From 450 quotes ranging from $800 - $10,000

Average Cost

$5,000

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Leg Paralysis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Cane Corso

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Paralyzed

My boy already has problems with his hips and while turning around in our van yelped and ever since then his left hind leg doesn't work. He is peeing without realizing it and sometimes pooping without knowledge.

Aug. 2, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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So sorry to hear about your dog. There are many reasons that your dog could have these issues. Not walking should see a vet right away as the quicker you start treating these issues the more likely that your dog will return to normal.

Aug. 2, 2020

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Border Collie

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Thirteen Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Paralysed Front Leg

my dog got all of the sudden paralyzed. Her front left leg has a snake bite. She is very alert and calm, she just can't walk.

July 27, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Good morning- Thank you for your question. I would recommend taking her to the veterinarian immediately. They can assess the leg, perform x-rays, and get her medication to help with her pain and a treatment plan for you. I hope she feels better soon.

July 27, 2020

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Boxer

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

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Disoriented

My 2 yo boxer was fine then all of a sudden she was leaning with her head dropped towards the couch. When I called her she would not respond to me. I sat in front of her and she leaned on me. She was breathing hard with her tongue out. When she attempted to walk her right front leg was limp and she started falling to the left. This lasted for about 15 mins. Now she is just sleeping and will only look at me when I call her, she won’t come to me.

July 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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Hello, So sorry to hear about your dog. This could be some type of neurological issues such as seizure or infection. It would be best for your vet to see your dog as many times untreated neurological issues can get very bad very quickly. Your vet would be able to complete a neurologic exam and figure out exactly the cause of this problem.

July 26, 2020

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Pitbull mixed blue nose & rednose

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Six months

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Drowsiness

he wwas fine then when I took him outside he strayed to get wobbly and fall down I took him inside now he’s just laying there with heavy breathing pupils are dilated , doesnt drink water either Plus he’s drooling

July 21, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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Hello I'm sorry to see that your pup is not feeling well. From what you are describing, it sounds like he may be having an allergic reaction. He could have been stung by an insect or bug. I recommend that you take him to a veterinarian for an exam. They will be able to give him medications to make him feel better. Good luck.

July 21, 2020

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Labradoodle

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Nine Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Back Leg Paralysis

We had my dog put down 2 days ago as he lower legs paralysis. It’s was weakness for 2 days then loss of legs completely. His tail was still wagging and he had deep pain but the vet did the prick test and the numbness seemed quite high at his ribs. He had surgery in jan this year to fix the same problem but it cost us $8000 and i couldn’t afford it this time around. I feel like I’ve done the wrong thing and perhaps should’ve tried steroids? I feel extremely guilty and think i should’ve waited.

July 19, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. I am very sorry for your loss, and it is very normal to feel grief and guilt. You made the decision for him, based on what was happening to him. If he lost use of his legs completely, steroids would not likely have helped very much, and it is not fair for a dog to not be able to walk. From your description, you and your veterinarian made the right decision, even though it was a difficult one. I am sorry for your loss.

July 19, 2020

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Luca Toni

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Shih Tzu

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4 Years

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Serious severity

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2 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Pain When Lifted

My dog (Toni) fell over his back trying to jump, he didn't presented any pain or problem during the first 12 hours, the next day he slowly lost all mobility over his back legs and also was in a lot of pain, since I'm out of town in a very small city (due to the quarantine) I wasn't able to take him to a clinic, so I took him to the closest vet, he was injected complex B and corticosteroids, they also gave me antiinflammatories. It's been 4 days, the pain doesn't go away and now he lost 100% sensation plus he can't control his bladder. I really don't know what to do, since here there're traffic restrictions, should I get surgical attention as soon as I can? What are the odds of my dog regaining any mobility or control over his bladder? Is therapy a good option? Thank you much to whoever has the time to read this :)

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CC

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English Mastiff

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8 Weeks

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Hind Leg Paralysis

I just got an 8 week old English mastiff puppy and the day I got her, the owner I received her from had other puppies too and placed them all together on her way to the vet to get their shots. Apparently one of the other puppies was lying on top of CC’s hind leg the entire drive to the vet (which could’ve been anywhere from 20-40 minutes) and after they got the puppies out of the vehicle, CC could not move her hind since. She does not walk or put pressure on it at all. The vet took an x ray and said nothing is broken. It has been almost a day and she is still not attempting to walk on it at all. Is she going to recover fine or could something more serious be wrong?

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Baby

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Pomeranian

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7 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Leg
Limp Legs

So a the moment my dog (7 years) was brutally hit by a truck right outside my house :'( and his legs are swollen and limp. It seems as though he doesn't feel any pain (which is why i'm worried about any spinal/nerve damage). He is secured in one of our laundry baskets and in company of my sister who is blabbering on what to do. We had recently paid a large bill for another pet of ours that was taken to the emergency room and money is in a tight spot/ which is why we haven't taken him to the vet yet. Is there anything to suggest on what we should do? Are his limp legs are a sign of something or if this will affect his need to release his inner demons?

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Chipper

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Golden Labrador

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2 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Rear Leg Partial Paralysis

My son brought our dog Chipper home when he was approximately 8 weeks old. Sweet Golden Lab. Little did we know that Chipper had parvo, coccidia and e coli. He was treated at the Animal Hospital and came home a normal loving puppy. Then when he was about four months old, he stopped using his hind legs. We took him swimming which helped his legs. Took him to several vets and the local university for testing. Nothing could be found. I finally took him for Aquapuncture and the first thing the Vet noticed was that his tail was short for his breed. We now think, as a puppy, he had a tail injury and that has caused nerve damage to his hind legs. He can go the bathroom himself and takes several wobbly steps himself. Could that be? I have also posted this under tail injury.

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Rebel

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Akita

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5 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Rear Leg Weakness,
Rear Leg Weakness, Knuckling
Rear Leg Weakness, Foot Knuckling
Rear Leg Weakness, Knuckling

My 5.5 year old intact male Akita had TPLO surgery on his LEFT knee. When returned to me two days later he presented with weakness, knuckling and foot dragging in his RIGHT leg. The surgeon stated it is due to a herniated disc that became inflamed as a result of the surgery. The vet tech told me upon discharge that it was a side effect of an epidural injection. He showed no signs of problems with his right leg prior to surgery. I am having a hard time believing the surgeon's explanation and believe it was caused by the epidural injection. The veterinary facility refuses to accept any responsibility.

Leg Paralysis Average Cost

From 450 quotes ranging from $800 - $10,000

Average Cost

$5,000