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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 will be a complete loss of sensation in the upper foreleg and upper side of the paw. While visually shocking, radial nerve paralysis is one of the most common nerve injuries 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.

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 or around the brachial plexus.

A thorough history and physical examination by an orthopedic specialist (likely to have the necessary technology) is essential. Electrodiagnostic tests will be helpful. 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. Nerve repair may happen only at the hands of a skilled neuro-specialist. 

  • 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

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Broono

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Labrador Retriever

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1 Year

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

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

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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3320 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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Thai

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Staffordshire Bull Terrier

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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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

Hello, my dog damaged his radial nerve by being hit by a car a year ago. He now can put weight on the leg and walk on all four legs although he has a pronounced limp. My questions are, does he suffer much pain? Also the vet has him on anti-inflametories. I wish to know if these are helpful with pain he may have? Thank you

Aug. 2, 2018

Thai's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

It is good that Thai is able to walk on all fours and isn’t paw curling or anything else concerning; there will be still some pain and discomfort from the injury but the anti inflammatories should be helping with that. Nerve injury is difficult to predict when it comes to improvement and each case is different, continue to monitor Thai for improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 3, 2018

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King

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Doberman Pinscher

dog-age-icon

1 Year

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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

Knuckling

My doberman puppy jumped out of my Jeep and broke his pelvis. He underwent surgery and has plates and screws. The surgeon said she could see his sciatic nerve the whole time and wasn’t worried about nerve damage. Now 17 weeks out, he has regained feeling in his effected limb all the way except he knuckles now and wears a dorsi flex boot. I take him to PT and laser therapy. Is there a chance it will return? I am concerned now as it is going on 4 months.

Feb. 10, 2018

King's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Without examining King or knowing more about his specific situation, I can't comment on whether the nerve function will return - that would be a great question for your veterinarian, or the surgeon who performed his pelvis repair, as they can assess his function and know more about his specific surgery. That is an intensive surgery, and it is possible that it may take time to recover, but 4 months is a long time. Having a follow up appointment with the surgeon would be a good idea. I hope that he recovers well.

Feb. 10, 2018

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Tomato

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Labrador Retriever

dog-age-icon

6 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

My 6 year old lab has been diagnosed with radial paralysis and tumor is visible in the xray. What is the solution? What are the chances of him recovering and in how much time? He cant walk at home, he was potty trained outside house, now he has no control over all 4 limbs and accidently does it anywhere in the house. That is not a concern, but his condition seems severe. Please guide

Nov. 13, 2017

Tomato's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

Is the tumour related to the radial nerve paralysis? Generally surgical excision of the tumour is recommended where possible but the prognosis for the radial nerve injury would depend on the severity of the paralysis. From your description it sounds like Tomato has a more serious condition than radial nerve paralysis since this only affects one limb. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Nov. 13, 2017

Then what could it be? Ortho declared in one look that its radial paralysis Also when he touched his left frony shoulder he confidently confirmed its a tumor. Never mentioned if both are related. Im very much worried. Please tell me what serious condition u think it is?

Nov. 13, 2017

Tomato's Owner


He has almost lost sensation in all 4 linbs and cannot stand. Keeps crying all day long :(, We have to help him to make get up. He still cant walk . 2 steps n he falls down

Nov. 13, 2017

Tomato's Owner

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Buddy

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Labrador Retriever

dog-age-icon

8 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

My 8 month old pup got hit by a car three nights ago and came home yesterday afternoon. He has been dragging his paw and not moving it. Does he have more of a chance to these nerves returning with him being so young? He is a fit Labrador retriever and never had anything wrong with him. Is there any excerises etc what can help with this?

Nov. 5, 2017

Buddy's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

In these cases, rest really is best to allow for Buddy to recover; there are some alternative options like acupuncture and laser therapy but these would need to be discussed with your Veterinarian to see Buddy’s suitability for these treatments. Recovery can be long and you may get frustrated but the severity of the injury and whether or not he has pain perception in his paw will determine the prognosis. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Nov. 5, 2017

Can u please tell me if u have known pups to get there nerves back and be able to use leg again?

Nov. 5, 2017

Buddy's Owner

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Kendall

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Border Collie

dog-age-icon

2 Years

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Moderate severity

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Paralysis
Leg Paralysis

Kendall is a 2 year old Border Collie Mix. 3 weeks ago she was hit by a vehicle and obtained radial nerve damage. For the first couple of weeks her leg dragged behind her without any use of it at all. The last week she has been raising it to “shake”, rubbing her face with it, stretching it when laying on her back, and even putting weight on it when she runs. However, when running she is running on her carpal joint due to not being able to flex her paw outward. Are these good signs? And does anyone have any advice on how to get her to flex her carpal joint and flip her paw out? We are in desperate need of help. This little pup is like our child.

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Ollie

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Rat Terrier/Chihuahua mix

dog-age-icon

3 Years

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

Mild severity

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking
Front Leg Paral
Stuck In A Flexed Or Bent Position
Flopping Around ,Ike A Fish

About 2 years ago my boyfriend had just got back home from walking from Petco with one of our dogs. After their return my bf sat on the couch with me and our dog Ollie sat in the middle. At some short time after, Ollie went to jump down off of the couch-unable to extend both of his front leg in a standing position and fell face down on the floor. He was then flopping around like a fish in panic and shaking. After about a good 5-7 mins he was finally able to regain his strength and ability to move again. My boyfriend said on their way back he had put some flea medication drops on the back of his neck and thought that because it was hot outside wondered if it could have been a reaction to the medication absorbing through pores being opened from walking & the heat. But then it happened again about a few weeks ago. Someone was knocking at our front door (which our two dogs bark every time). So he came running down this little ramp we built that going from our bed to the side wall and to the ground. I noticed when he made it to the ground both of his front legs were stuck in a flexed/bent position and was flopping around and shaking. I just stayed calm me tried my best to comfort him and he eventually regained control of his legs. Lastly, just Last night it happens again he went to run and jump on this little Shays lounge couch we have and again was flopping like a fish, unable to extend elbow and go to a standing position..he was also whispering ...I picked him up and gently placed him on the floor and he kept trying to stand up but he could not hold his own body weight. He kept shaking as-well. But eventually he regain full control of his legs. What is strange is he has not suffered from any kind of injury whatsoever.. Any idea why it keeps happening ..?

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Porter

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Yorkshire Terrier

dog-age-icon

9 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

Partial Front Leg Paralysis - Both.

Porter is about 9 years of age. About two years ago I started to notice he was becoming unstable in his front legs. My wife commented that he looked bow legged. This happened slowly and over time. About a year ago he stopped going up and down the stairs and did not like walking when going down hill. About 6 months ago he started suffering from severe back spasms. He has been treated with anti imflamatory and pain meds but he is getting worse.

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Bentley

dog-breed-icon

Goldendoodle

dog-age-icon

Four Months

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

Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Nerve Damage
Eye Dilation
No Response To Pain In Front Leg
Bruised Lungs
Traumatic Brain Injury
Road Rash

Bentley jumped out of a car window about two weeks ago when we opened the window for our older dog. We were driving at around 30-35 mph at the time, and we rushed him to our nearest animal hospital. They noticed that he was going into shock (blue/grey colored gums), and was constantly crying out in pain when his right front leg was moved at the shoulder. We were referred to another hospital for neurological testing and xrays-- while they did not find any broken bones, they saw that his lungs were bruised and his brain was swelling. They were not sure if he was going to make it through the night, but we were forced to leave him overnight for oxygen treatment and constant monitoring. When we visited him the next morning, he was trying to walk around slowly, having no feeling in his right front leg, dragging it as he went. We were able to take him home that night, as he was under a lot of pain medication and anti-inflammatories to help him sleep. His right eye stayed dilated for about five days following the accident, but has since returned to normal. We were recommended by a friend to take him to go to a kind of "canine chiropractor" near us, and two of his vertebrate were found to be out of place as well as his collarbone. With a quick adjustment, he was returned back to normal, and we are hoping that the visit will help take the pressure off of his nerves in his leg. As of today, he is breathing well and is managing to walk around as well as he can without the use of his leg. Our other dog is also not wanting to play with him like he used to, so we are hoping that his leg will get better or our other dog will accept that he is injured and continue to treat him as he did when he was not injured. We are continuing treatment, and are trying to find a hydrotherapy location near us, but is there any way that laser treatment would be beneficial in treatment for his nerve damage? They do not know if his nerves are completely torn, or if they are just stretched, but is amputation certain in a situation like this?

Radial Nerve Paralysis Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$1,500

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