Paralyzed in Dogs

Why is my dog paralyzed?

What is Paralyzed?

Paralysis in dogs is an emergency situation that needs to be addressed immediately. If your dog is unable to move any part of her body, you should take her to the emergency animal hospital right away. It could be something as mild as a pinched nerve or as serious as cancer or an embolus in the spinal cord. Some of the most common causes of paralysis in dogs are:

  • Cancer
  • Congenital
  • Distemper
  • Infection
  • Injury
  • Tick paralysis
  • Toxic exposure

There are three main types of paralysis. These include tetraplegia, which is paralysis of all four legs; paraplegia, which is paralysis of the rear legs; and paresis, which is partial paralysis.

Why Paralyzed Occurs in Dogs


There are several kinds of cancer that can cause paralysis in dogs. A brain tumor is not uncommon and can be primary or secondary. Some breeds are more susceptible such as:

  • Boston Terriers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Boxers


The most common hereditary diseases that can cause paralysis are:

  • Canine degenerative myelopathy (Irish Setters, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, German Shepherds, Boxers, and Welsh Corgis) is a slow progressing disorder that causes a gradual paralysis of the hind legs
  • Fibrocartilaginous embolism (large breed dogs such as German Shepherds) is usually temporary and will clear up by itself within a few weeks
  • Intervertebral disc disease (dogs with short legs such as Dachshunds) is caused by the vertebrae in your dog’s spinal cord breaking down and rupturing; the vertebrae crush the nerves, which causes paralysis


Distemper is an extremely contagious viral disease that causes fever, appetite loss, lethargy, runny nose and eyes, pustules or lesions on the skin, circling, paralysis, and seizures. It is eventually fatal.


Certain infections such as meningitis, rabies, and fungal infections can cause paralysis as well as other symptoms such as fever, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and abnormal behavior.


Any kind of injury to the head or spine can cause paralysis. This can be from a fall, being hit by a vehicle, or other trauma that can cause spinal cord damage. A herniated disc or pinched nerve can even be caused by playing too rough.

Tick Paralysis

The bite from certain ticks can cause a progressive paralysis that can affect the legs and spread to the rest of the body including the heart and lungs. Without removing the tick and getting treatment right away, it can be fatal.

Toxic Exposure

Some types of toxins such as insecticides or pesticides can cause paralysis in dogs if not treated. Other symptoms you may notice are vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.

What to do if your Dog is Paralyzed

No matter what the suspected cause, you should immediately take your dog to the nearest animal hospital for treatment if she shows any sign of paralysis. Without treatment, the paralysis can spread to the vital organs and be fatal in some cases. The veterinary care provider will do a complete physical examination on your dog to determine the extent of the paralysis and to check for other symptoms. In addition, the veterinarian will most likely do some laboratory and diagnostic tests. Digital x-rays, an MRI, CT scans, and an ultrasound may also be used.

Prevention of Paralyzed

To prevent many infections such as distemper and rabies, immunizations should be given on a regular basis. In addition, the veterinarian can provide you with the appropriate flea and tick protection for your dog as well. Keeping your dog on a leash when she is outdoors can prevent her from most injuries such as being hit by a vehicle. Toxic exposure can be prevented by making sure there are no toxic chemicals or plants where your dog can reach them. Also, bringing your dog to see her veterinary care provider on a regular basis can help prevent many conditions by catching illnesses before they get too serious.

Cost of Paralyzed

The cost of paralysis in dogs is usually quite costly because of the seriousness of the condition. The cost of treating an infection ranges from $1,000 for the overnight hospitalization, tests, and medication to $3,000 for several days of hospitalization and treatment. Toxic exposure costs about $2,000 for hospitalization and treatment. Spinal cord injuries usually require surgical repair and a hospital stay, which will cost up to $12,000. Cancer is costly as well and can cost up to $10,000 for surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hospitalization. Tick paralysis requires antitoxin and a short hospital stay with acute care. The cost of this varies depending on the severity of the paralysis, but it usually is about $3,000 to $5,000.

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Paralyzed Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals






6 Years


1 found this helpful


1 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Left Side Paralysis
My dog Gracie has always been a happy go lucky yorkipoo. Ever since Friday night shes had difficulty walking on her left side. I took her to the vet tonight and they suspect it has to do with something neurologically in her neck, something about a disc. What is the likely hood of her recovering from something like this without expensive surgery?

July 15, 2018

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

1 Recommendations

Gracie's prognosis for recovery depends on the severity of her signs, and without seeing her, I don't have any way to know that. If she has some use on that side and you are able to restrict activity for her while she recovers, many dogs recover from spinal problems quite well. If she loses function of her back end or limbs, she may need surgery right away to recover. Since I can't examine her, it would be best to ask your veterinarian what the chances are that she will make a normal recovery, as they can assess her and let you know.

July 15, 2018

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