Radial Nerve Paralysis in Dogs

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Radial Nerve Paralysis in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Radial Nerve Paralysis in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What are Radial Nerve Paralysis?

The radial nerve is the largest nerve in the front leg, and is responsible for extending the elbow, wrist and toes. When this nerve is damaged, dogs appear lame, often dragging the front paw on the ground. Trauma above the elbow is the most common cause of radial nerve paralysis in dogs. There may be a complete loss of sensation in the upper foreleg and upper side of the paw. While visually shocking, radial nerve paralysis is a more common nerve injury in both dogs and cats. The severity of symptoms varies per the amount of damage to the radial nerve, and particularly where along the nerve pathway the injury occurred.

The radial nerve originates under the upper front leg from a group of nerves called the brachial plexus. The brachial plexus comprises nerves that extend from the spinal cord in the neck region.  Since the radial nerve is behind all movements of the elbow, carpus (the wrist), and toes, it is the primary nerve of support for the limb. Hence, the dog’s mobility and stability will be tremendously impacted if this nerve is injured. Dogs with radial nerve paralysis will lose the ability to control their triceps and the muscles that extend down the front leg, and accordingly, they are unable to extend the elbow. The result is a limb that can't be placed in a fixed standing position and is unable to bear body weight. The leg will remain flexed or bent, and may dangle in front of the dog.

The radial nerve is the largest nerve in the front leg, and is responsible for extending the elbow, wrist, and toes.  When the radial nerve is injured, paralysis of the front leg can occur.

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Radial Nerve Paralysis Average Cost

From 464 quotes ranging from $300 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,500

Symptoms of Radial Nerve Paralysis in Dogs

  • Leg remains flexed or bent
  • Will be unable to stand or bear weight on the leg
  • Dragging of the paw
  • Loss of cutaneous sensation on the forelimb

Types

Radial nerve paralysis is characterized by the degree of injury to the nerve.

  • Neuropraxia  - This is a temporary loss of nerve function without anatomical injury; the dog will regain full use of the leg 
  • Axonotmesis – This injury causes rupture of some of the nerve fibers within an intact sheath; the prognosis for this degree of nerve injury is unclear, though there is a chance that the nerve will regrow and the limb will regain a degree of function  
  • Neurotmesis – In this case, the nerve is completely severed, including the fibers and the protective sheath; if the dog can sense pain with pressure, there is a chance that the limb may regain limited function but without the response, prognosis is poor.
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Causes of Radial Nerve Paralysis in Dogs

  • Trauma to leg (such as hit by automobile)
  • Tumor
  • Nerve damage
  • Nerve lesion
  • Neoplasia
  • Nerve rupture
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Diagnosis of Radial Nerve Paralysis in Dogs

Three levels of injury are associated with nerves and the outcome will depend on how much of the nerve is damaged. Neuropraxia is the most desirable option as it represents only a temporary loss of nerve function and bears no long-term physical damage. In the case of Axonotmesis, nerve fibers rupture inside of the sheath (protective covering) due to pinching, crushing or sustained pressure to the nerve. If the injury is quickly addressed, there is a chance that the nerve will re-grow, returning the limb to guarded function. In the worst scenario, Neurotmesis, the nerve, nerve fibers and protective covering are completely severed. Prognosis is poor as there is no chance that function will be recovered. 

Careful diagnosis plays a considerable role in treating foreleg paralysis. While trauma to the radial nerve is the most common cause of such an injury, other neuromuscular diseases and neuropathies may be at play. Additional causes of radial nerve paralysis include a tumor occurring on or around the brachial plexus.

A thorough history and physical examination by a veterinarian is essential. Electrodiagnostic tests will be helpful, and referral to a specialist might be recommended. Neurologic examination should follow or accompany physical examination.

During examination, the major nerve groups should be routinely tested. Cutaneous sensation testing is valuable when attempting to localize forelimb paralysis.

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Treatment of Radial Nerve Paralysis in Dogs

Nerve injuries bear some mystery, and are difficult to treat. . 

  • Recommendations may include:
  • Daily manipulation (as instructed by the veterinarian) of the muscle, joints, and tendons
  • NSAID’s
  • Cortisone or prednisone as the nerve heals
  • Laser therapy
  • Massage
  • If after 3 to 6 months, no reparation is apparent, it may be necessary to amputate as many dogs may self mutilate due to strange sensations from the leg
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Recovery of Radial Nerve Paralysis in Dogs

The limb must be protected during recovery. Re-injury is quite possible as the dog attempts to use the healing leg and paw. During recovery, the dog may lose muscle function. Physical therapy may be helpful to maintain blood flow in the muscles. If any injured nerves begin to re-grow, the animal may experience strange sensations from the affected limb, and self-mutilation may occur. In this case, amputation of the limb may be considered.

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Radial Nerve Paralysis Average Cost

From 464 quotes ranging from $300 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,500

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Radial Nerve Paralysis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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American Staffordshire Terrier

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Six Months

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1 found helpful

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1 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Lame

My pet Broke his front left leg and had to have orthopaedic surgery to correct the injury. The doctor set my pet home without a brace and say that he will be fine to come back in a few weeks to remove the pins. When I took my pet back to the doctor he said one of the pins had came out the other pen was stuck in the bomb and he remove 1 pin he said to see how the dog will react and bring it back if they have problems which he did have problems. He did another surgery to remove the pin and scrape off some kind of bone growth and shaved the bone. It has been a few weeks but my dog wrist still

Dec. 7, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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1 Recommendations

I'm sorry to hear your puppy is having trouble with the healing of his fracture. Unfortunately, without examining him it is difficult to know what is going on. It may be that the fracture has not healed as well as expected yet, or that there is another issue such as an infection. Unfortunately your question cut off and it ends with 'my dog's wrist is still...' so I'm not entirely sure what you needed to know. At this early stage, I would be bringing him back to the surgeon for reassessment. He may need more rest and anti-inflammatories, or perhaps he is at the stage where physiotherapy would benefit him. Your surgeon will be able to advise.

Dec. 7, 2020

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Broono

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Labrador Retriever

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1 Year

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0 found helpful

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0 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Lack Of Appetite
Unable To Walk By Himself,
Crying When Trying To Walk/Stand

Hi, My labrador (1yo)had tick fever for a whole week and just got recovered, and now he is unable to walk by himself. The vet said its an infection caused by the tick fever and he should be normal back by two weeks with the treatments. Please advise is this gonna be normal

Aug. 7, 2018

Broono's Owner

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0 Recommendations

There are a few diseases which may be called tick fever including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Babesiosis or Anaplasmosis; any joint inflammation may take some time to fully recover and may be a cause for discomfort or pain, however I cannot give you any full assurances that Broono will make a full recovery without performing an examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 7, 2018

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Radial Nerve Paralysis Average Cost

From 464 quotes ranging from $300 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,500

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