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What is Paralysis Due to Spinal Cord Injury?

Injury to the spinal cord is not uncommon in dogs, and it usually the herniation of a disc in the back caused by an accident. The injury may not seem like much at first, with moderate pain but your dog may still be able to get around just fine. This will usually progress to paralysis with time or the next time your dog gets a little too playful. Think of it like yourself having a slipped or herniated disc in your back. If you ignore it and think it will go away, but continue doing your regular daily activities without resting, it may get better on its own for a while. However, it will only get worse eventually when you turn the wrong way or maybe without any obvious reason at all. If you ignore your dog’s back injury, he can end up permanently paralyzed or it can even lead to death.

A spinal cord injury can be a dislocation, compression, fracture, impact, laceration, or crushing and all of these can cause enough damage to produce paralysis. The damage depends on the type of accident or trauma so your dog’s symptoms will vary. In addition, any kind of nerve damage can be complicated so even if your dog seems okay after an accident there may be an underlying spinal cord injury hiding and getting worse with every movement. With these kinds of injuries, there can be a compressed nerve, pressure on the blood vessels, or herniated disc that will get worse with time and movement.

Paralysis due to spinal cord injury is usually the result of an automobile accident, dog bite, or gunshot wound causing spinal cord tissues to be destroyed and blood vessels to rupture. Once this happens, the connection between the brain and the spinal cord is gone, causing paralysis. Whether it is permanent or temporary depends on the severity and extent of the damage to the spinal cord as well as the treatment the dog is given. Even if the dog’s primary injury is minor, the movement afterwards can cause the damage to the spinal cord to be severe. One of the most important things in a motor vehicle accident is to make sure the dog’s back and neck is kept straight and supported to decrease any additional damage.

Paralysis Due to Spinal Cord Injury Average Cost

From 35 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $12,000

Average Cost

$8,500

Symptoms of Paralysis Due to Spinal Cord Injury in Dogs

The symptoms of spinal cord injury paralysis can vary greatly depending on the type and place of injury, age and health of your dog, how long ago it happened, and the amount of movement after the accident that causes secondary damage. Some of the most common symptoms of spinal cord injury are:

  • Arching of the back
  • Pain when back is touched
  • Inability to walk
  • Not moving hind legs
  • No sensation or feeling of pain in areas below the injury site
  • Muscle softening in back legs
  • Stiff neck
  • Not turning the head
  • Weakness in legs
  • Dragging of the feet
  • Elevating one leg
  • Muscle spasms

No matter whether you see symptoms of spinal cord damage or not, if your dog has been hit by a motor vehicle (or any other traumatic incident involving the back), you should immobilize him with a board or some other hard surface to prevent any further injury to the spinal cord. Take your dog to the vet or animal hospital immediately. Do not wait to see if your dog gets better because he cannot tell you what hurts. Similar to a baby or young child being hit by a car, better to be safe than sorry. Spinal cord injuries can become fatal suddenly if your dog moves wrong or if you delay treatment.

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Causes of Paralysis Due to Spinal Cord Injury in Dogs

The causes of spinal cord injury paralysis are:

  • Motor vehicle accident
  • Animal attack or fight
  • Gunshot wound
  • Any other traumatic injury
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Diagnosis of Paralysis Due to Spinal Cord Injury in Dogs

The veterinarian will need to stabilize your dog and provide medical treatment immediately so the preliminary examination may be done quickly in a hospital setting by someone other than your family veterinarian. For this reason, you have to be able to provide as many details as possibly of what happened and your dog’s medical history. This includes any illnesses or injury that have happened recently, whether your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations, and whether he is allergic to anything.

The veterinarian will immediately do radiographs (x-rays) of your dog’s entire body to see what damage has occurred and whether emergency surgery is needed. A CT scan, ultrasound, and MRI may be necessary as well for more detailed imaging. Once your dog is stable enough the veterinarian will do blood work (i.e. CBC, blood chemistry), urinalysis, heart rate, blood pressure, and possibly a sample of spinal fluid for evaluation.

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Treatment of Paralysis Due to Spinal Cord Injury in Dogs

If your dog has spinal cord injury paralysis the veterinarian will refer you to a neurologist or other specialist to perform surgery to repair the damage, if possible. If the damage is not repairable with surgery, they may decide to put your dog on cage rest while the injury heals. Previously, it was thought that any form of paralysis from spinal cord damage was permanent and unable to be repaired. Recently though, studies have shown that it is possible for the central nervous system to heal itself without any treatment besides cage rest and stabilizing the injured area. Depending on the amount and area of damage, it is possible that the spinal cord tissue can regenerate and repair the damage on its own.

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Recovery of Paralysis Due to Spinal Cord Injury in Dogs

The veterinarian will send your dog home with detailed instructions of how to care for your dog to prevent the damage from getting worse. You have to be invested in the aftercare because taking care of a paralyzed dog is similar to taking care of a child. You have to be available 24 hours a day when needed to help your dog recover from this serious injury. Your dog will be frightened and anxious, so your veterinarian may prescribe some kind of mild sedative with instructions on how and when to use it. Be sure to follow all the directions the veterinarian gives you and report anything you may think is important.

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Paralysis Due to Spinal Cord Injury Average Cost

From 35 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $12,000

Average Cost

$8,500

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Paralysis Due to Spinal Cord Injury Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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American Bully

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11 weeks

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Can’T Use Back Legs In Full Effect

My puppy had trapped herself in her cage whilst trying to get out whilst I was at work. Half her body was out and the rear end of her body were trapped in against the cage. When I came to her she couldn’t use her back legs at all. After taking her to the vets we were given medication and within 2 days she has started to use one of the rear legs but the other rear leg she is starting to drag and has no real movement in it. Although when I pinch her behind the leg (weak rear leg) she does yelp so that gives me some indication that she has some feeling. What is the chances of recovery ?

July 10, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, It is a good sign that he legs are slowly starting to get better and that she yelps when you pinch her toes. This can take a long time to recover if ever. Most do not recover to 100% but will recover enough to be able to live a normal life. Nerve issues can take months to get better. Continue giving the medication prescribed by your vet and I hope that your dog does make a full recovery.

July 10, 2020

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GracieLou

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Pekingese mix

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11 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lower Limb Paralysis

My 11 yr old pekingese was hit by a car a few weeks ago. She has been unable to use her rear legs since. She has deep pain sensation, and has controlled use of her bladder and bowel movements. Her appetite is good and she is back to her usual temperament (she has an attitude!). I use a sling to "walk" her to keep her active and to do her business, and do basic physical therapy on her legs daily (massage; moving legs in a walking/bicycle movement; rolling her from side to side, etc). She seems to be improving a little every day, and I'm wondering if getting a wheelchair for her would be beneficial, or should I wait to see if her legs get more strength and/or she begins walking on her own? She is mainly on "bed rest" unless she's out doing her business or we're doing therapy. Should we continue with status quo or invest in a wheelchair? Would wheels help or hinder her in terms of wanting to use her legs?

Aug. 26, 2018

GracieLou's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

A wheelchair will help with mobility without a doubt, but will make Gracie Lou dependent on it and she may not be encouraged to use her legs; without examining her myself I cannot determine whether she has a chance of using her legs again or not so you should discuss with your Veterinarian. Also, think about the cost, proper wheelchairs for dogs are not cheap as they are usually custom made. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 27, 2018

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Buddy

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Jack Russell Terrier

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Not Moving

My husband took our jack Russell to get his nail trimmed, he waited outside like always while they took him back to get it done. About 15 mins later they were done but they didn’t bring us the dog to us like always. Instead my husband had to go inside to pick him up from under a desk and he wouldn’t move. At first he though he was just scared( no dogs like to get his nails cut) but like and hour and half later we realized he was not moving still not even to eat or to greet me and my daughter when we got home. Took him to the vet and he ended having damage to his c3 c4 through c5 c6 were damaged. He has disc extrusion/ protusion. He never complaint or show signs of having back pain and was perfectly walking and normal when he took him. in 15 mins our dog was like a vegetable couldn’t stand and his legs His body was like a jelly?

Aug. 9, 2018

Buddy's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

In this case I cannot say specifically what has occurred but I’m sure you know that dog groomers restrain dogs by with a loop or collar around the neck and a band around the abdomen which is common practice; I’m not pointing any blame here. You should follow instructions from your Veterinarian and monitor for improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 9, 2018

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Maxx

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dauchsand, shih tzu mix

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8 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Paralysis In Rear Legs, Incontinent

My dog fell and has a slipped disc. I took him to the vet who gave him steroids and pain meds. He cannot use his back legs at all and is starting to become incontinent. He doesn't seem to be in any pain, but is depressed because of limited mobility. My husband says I should put him down since we cannot afford surgery. It is a hard decision. In your opinion, is it better for me to put him down or just make him comfortable.

Aug. 7, 2018

Maxx's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

IF Maxx isn't regaining use of his back end, and is incontinent, the chances that he will recover without surgery are slim, and that isn't a good quality of life, in my opinion. Dogs like to run and play and be able to live their lives. I'm sorry that is happening to Maxx, that is very sad.

Aug. 7, 2018

Thanks for the advice. My husband and I discussed this last night. It is very difficult to decide. We lost our other dog in March and my daughter took it really hard, so this is very hard for her. She will be fine though. Thanks again.

Aug. 8, 2018

Maxx's Owner

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Juba

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Whoodle

dog-age-icon

9 Years

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Serious severity

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2 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Paralysis
Hind Limb Weakness
Loss Of Strength

My 9 year old Whoodle suffered trauma the back and became paralyzed in hind legs. MRI showed a disc had slipped and a piece of debris penetrated the spinal canal. It also showed that the debris appeared to be gone and that the disc was no longer slipped (if I understand that part correctly). No surgery was deemed necessary. Initially total paralysis in both hind legs but continued pain sensation in paw pads. Within 1 week he started to show signs of using the left leg although with no strength to speak of and no ability to support weight on it. Right leg continues to drag. Both move independently while dog dreams. He has bowel movements on his own. He will bark afterwards to let us know and last night even barked before. He also moved himself to a sitting position last night before having movement. If standing with hind legs supported he may urinate otherwise will express bladder while laying as he is large and it can be difficult to stand, support, and express. He is home, not caged but laying comfortable in a quiet setting. He does feel pain at times when we move him so we try to limit it as much as possible. Physical Therapist coming for consult this week. Doctors BTW believe 90-95% chance of strong, if not full, recovery. Your thoughts are appreciated.

Aug. 5, 2018

Juba's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

I think that your veterinarians seem to have Juba's situation under control, and physical therapy will hopefully help him continue to recover. The only thing that might be nice for him would be to be on pain medication if you still feel that he has painful moments - Gabapentin can be used very safely long term. I hope that he continues to do well.

Aug. 5, 2018

Thank you Dr King. I asked the question on this site because the answers to the previously asked questions seemed to be thoughtful and not at all off the wall as can sometimes be the case online. We had a similar thought about some pain medication possibly being beneficial and nice to know that Gabapentin is a safe long term option. Thanks again.

Aug. 5, 2018

Juba's Owner

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Molly

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Dachshund

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8 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Partial Paralysis In Hind Legs

My 8 year old dachshund was showing symptoms of a hurt back we took her to the vet they injected anti inflammatory and sent her home with meds later that night she tried to get up and her back legs gave out at that point she was crying out in pain we took her to the er they injected her with pain medication and gave her x rays that showed she has mineralization, narrowing and arthritis in her disc spaces they sent her home with more pain medication and anti inflammatories. She has since then lost all control of her bladder and bowel movements. I took her back to her vet for a follow up 3 days ago and they said she appeared more inflamed he again injected her with anti inflammatory and sent her home with steroids at this point and said she may need to see a neurologist if i dont see improvement in 3 days it is now 3 days there are no specialist in my area only one close is 5 hours away and i dont know how financially im going to be able to pay for any of her medical needs at this point can anyone be brutally honest with me as to where to go from here? My babygirl doesnt eat as much she looks depressed throughout the day and i think she is having muscle spasms because every now and then she will let out a cry that sounds like shes in pain.

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Sully

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Golden Retriever

dog-age-icon

14 Months

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

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking
Paralysis
Bowels Normal
Eating And Drinking

My 1 year old English Cream was run over by car in our driveway when a friend was backing up. He has no feeling from his waist down, when poked with a 20gage needle. He still has bowel movements, is eating and drinking. After 24 hours he shows few signs that when tickling his back paw he has a reflex, Although he does not appear to show any signs of feeling it. He is still at the vet and the minimal 4K just for an MRI, not including surgery is not an option for us. Can he be severly swollen and recover through rest? The Vet wants to monitor him for at least 5 days before we determine next steps since we declined the MRI direction. Any thoughts? Advice please my heart is breaking! He is a gentle giant (100lbs) and so loveable!

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Luna

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Mixed

dog-age-icon

2 Years

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

Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Unable To Walk
Dragging Hind Leg
Collapse Due To Lack Of Mobility

Hi my 2 year old Luna was playing with my other dog and I heard her cry out when I ran to see what had happened she was in the floor with both legs extended. After taking her to the vet I was told she may have a spinal injury & they gave her a steroid injections & some prednisone to administer. When I took her back the following day, as recommended by the vet, he said he was going to write a referral for a neurological surgery but said to monitor to see if there was any improvement. Although she is now moving around more and standing on her own she still seems to not have any improvement in mobility in her right hind leg ( the leg that was primarily effected by the injury). Would you recommend surgery immediately l?

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Guss

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Mastiff

dog-age-icon

6 Years

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

Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Paralyzed Hind Legs
Loses All Weight
Still Eats And Drinks
Paralyzation Improves After 1 Month
Still Eating/Drinking But Anorexic

If the dog is recovering from spinal cord damage, does he eat alot but still lose lots of weight? I have a co-worker whom lives on a farm, his bull mastiff was very healthy, then quite suddenly, was paralyzed in his back legs, he was fat and healthy he lost wait to anorexic state, he still eats but does not gain weight, now a month later he is improving walking now also, but still very skinny. The cause is unknown, ticks? Bone tumor? Physical injury on farm with cows pigs or vehichle? What is likely the cause according to the symptoms, 1. Paralyzed in back legs suddenly 2. Loses all weight 3. But still eats and drinks regular 4. Paralyzation in back legs improving after a month 5. Still eating but skinny.

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Penny

dog-breed-icon

Mixed

dog-age-icon

6 Years

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

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Paralysis

3rd December 2018 - she ran down the garden yelped and sat down lifted her back end and rubbed her back BUT that night still sore unable to jump and climb stairs to bed. By the morning back end paralysed went to vets suspected herniated disc MRI confirmed and surgery next day on T11-12 intervertebral disc extrusion two weeks at vets on cage rest TLC and physio. Home just before xmas for onward care physio and love plus regular bladder emptying happy but still paralysed with no pain. She does twitch her lower limbs during physio and and lifts her tail to pass urine and faeces? Taking Nisamox 250mg for urine infection

Paralysis Due to Spinal Cord Injury Average Cost

From 35 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $12,000

Average Cost

$8,500

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