Paralysis Due to Spinal Cord Injury in Dogs

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Paralysis Due to Spinal Cord Injury in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Paralysis Due to Spinal Cord Injury in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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 can 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.

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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

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 want to take 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 may 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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Worried about the cost of Paralysis Due To Spinal Cord Injury treatment?

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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

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Shih Tzu

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nine

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5 found helpful

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5 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Leg Bending When Standing

Yesterday evening during the walk he was walking slow. He looked to be walking like a person with hip issues. This morning he woke up breathing heavily, we walked him, but when he stood still to urinate his back right leg would seem to bend and "give out". He walks on the legs but when standing for a while even to eat the leg"gives way". I've picked him up and carried him, but he has not made any noise to indicate pain.

Oct. 11, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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5 Recommendations

Hello- Thank you for your question. Without examining him it is difficult to say exactly what is going on. Unfortunately dogs tend to be quite stoic so they don’t tend to tell us when something is painful unless it is extremely painful. The weakness is his limb could be due to a neurologic disease or an orthopedic issue. I would recommend having seen by your veterinarian for an exam and some x-rays. Once a diagnosis is reached he or she can provide an appropriate treatment plan. I hope he feels better soon!

Oct. 11, 2020

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Chihuahua

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unknown

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3 found helpful

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3 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Fully Paralyzed

dog started out hunched over. Would yelp randomly sometimes when I picked her up or tried to pet her. Now she's fully paralyzed from the neck down. Tail is the only thing that kinda moves a bit. Won't hardly drink water, eats a bit when spoonfed.

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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3 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I'm sorry that is happening to your dog. She probably needs to see a veterinarian immediately, as there may be therapy that can be given to try and help her.

Oct. 9, 2020

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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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