Unable to Move in Dogs

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Why is my dog unable to move?

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Why is my dog unable to move?

What is Unable to Move?

Dogs can experience paralysis due to multiple issues at any stage in life. There are three different kinds of canine paralysis that can occur: Tetraplegia - your dog has lost movement in all of his legs, Paraplegia - your dog cannot move his back legs, and Paresis - your dog is partially paralyzed and has difficulty moving around. When one of these conditions occurs you may notice your dog refusing to get up or walking with only the front legs while the back legs drag on the ground. If you notice that your dog no longer has the ability to move his legs or has a difficult time walking around, you will want to get him to the vet as soon as possible in order to diagnose the underlying issue. 

  • Tick bites
  • Intervertebral disk disease
  • Rabies or tetanus (viral or bacterial infections)
  • Tumors 

When canine paralysis is taken care of soon enough, the affected dog can live a full life with proper care and medications. However, paralysis can be permanently damaging or deadly if not addressed immediately so it is extremely important to get professional help the moment you realize your dog may have symptoms of being unable to move.

Why Unable to Move Occurs in Dogs

If your dog has recently been involved in a traumatic event, such as being hit by a car, being unable to move may be explained by that trauma. However, there are many reasons why canine paralysis can occur that are not as easy to distinguish. A few of these causes are tick bites, intervertebral disk disease (IVDD), bacterial infections like rabies or tetanus, and tumors. Any of these underlying issues may cause your dog to become unable to walk, have trouble moving around normally, experience constipation, and more. 

Tick Bites

These nasty little bugs can be found virtually everywhere, especially in heavily wooded areas, and have a rather unfortunate bite. If your dog is bitten by a tick that contains this toxin, the toxin can be passed into the bloodstream of the dog and may lead to paralysis. In most cases, the toxin causes symptoms such as vomiting and slow movement. But, in a rare event, immediate paralysis can occur. If you notice that your dog has been bitten by a tick and is showing signs of paralysis, get him to the vet immediately as this paralysis can be fatal. 

Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD)

This disease is most commonly found in dogs with long bodies such as the Dachshund. In older dogs, or dogs that experience spinal trauma or some kind, IVDD can result in the paralysis of the hind legs. When the dog’s spine experiences ruptured cushioning disks (located between each of the vertebrae) the disks press against the spinal nerves, causing pain and possible paralysis. IVDD has the possibility of being treated with medications provided by your veterinarian that can help your dog to overcome the injury and continue living a comfortable life, but some situations require surgery.   

Viral or bacterial infections 

Infections such as tetanus or rabies can be a factor when it comes to a dog being unable to move. As these infections are often fatal, treatment by your veterinarian is recommended.

Tumors

If a tumor develops on your dog’s spine paralysis might occur. A tumor causing paralysis may occur slowly.  It is of the utmost importance to get your dog medical help when a tumor is the issue. 

All of these causes are extremely dangerous, and while some may cause paralysis slowly and can be reversed, each one can be deadly. See a vet immediately if you notice your dog showing any signs of loss of mobility.

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What to do if your Dog is Unable to Move

If your dog becomes unable to move, it is very important to get them medical attention and carefully monitor them. Depending on the severity and underlying cause of the canine paralysis, the effects may be able to be reversed. If, however, the paralysis has passed the point of reversibility, your dog will need constant care and medications in order to live a happy and comfortable life. 

Be sure to talk with your vet about the best treatment for your dog depending on the diagnosis. If your dog is paralyzed he will need special care and help with doing things he no longer can do for himself, such as grooming and being taken outside to use the restroom. Incontinence can occur so the purchase of products such as potty mats may be useful in this situation.  Euthanasia may be the kindest option in some of these situations.  

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Prevention of Unable to Move

Due to the fact that paralysis, partial and full, can come from a number of different causes it can be a difficult thing to prevent. One thing that you can do is try to protect your pet from things such as ticks, trauma, and viral or bacterial infections. 

When preventing tick bites you want to steer clear of things such as tick collars and tick bombs. A few ways that you can prevent ticks in a healthy way is to:

  • Check your dog for ticks whenever he comes in from playing outside
  • Have your vet perform a tick check each visit 
  • If you find a tick remove it right away with a tick key
  • Reduce the tick habitat in your yard
  • Speak with your vet about the best tick prevention methods

To avoid trauma, do not allow your dog to roam free when on a walk. Keep them on a leash at all times and when they are out playing in the yard, be sure to have a fence and a locked gate to prevent them from running out into the road. Being hit by a car can cause serious trauma to your dog’s body and can result in paralysis and even death. 

An infection such as rabies or tetanus is a serious disease. If your pet is bitten by an animal that you may suspect had rabies, get him to the vet immediately in order to be quarantined and receive a rabies booster. In order to try and prevent rabies, be sure that your pet’s vaccinations are up to date.

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Cost of Unable to Move

Treatment cost will vary depending on the cause of your dog’s paralysis. For instance, if your dog is diagnosed with tick paralysis, the cost of treatment will be an average cost of $2100. If your dog is diagnosed with spinal trauma, treatment will be between $1,000 and $10,000, depending on the severity of the injury.

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Worried about the cost of treating your pet's symptoms?

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Unable to Move Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Lhasa Apso

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Eleven Years

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6 found helpful

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6 found helpful

Has Symptoms

My dog collapsed to the floor and stiffened up like a board with legs out. He didn’t move or just shake. He was perfectly still on his and peed himself. As soon as he was coming out of it he did an awful dog scream/cry and wouldn’t move for a little bit. He finally got up with wobbly legs and now he’s back to acting like the same happy healthy dog we’ve known and his legs are working fine. This all happened within the past 30 minutes. He is tired and seems scared though

March 1, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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6 Recommendations

I'm very sorry to hear this. That sounds like a tonic clonic seizure which can have many causes including toxin exposure, liver disease, a brain tumour etc. Epilepsy is unlikely at his age. He should see a vet right away to examine him and run run tests to investigate the cause, such as a blood test.

March 1, 2021

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Boxer

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4 Years

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5 found helpful

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5 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Can’t move has no shots will not let us take him to the vet

Dec. 6, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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5 Recommendations

An inability to move is a big concern and can have many causes including a slipped disc, a fracture in the neck or back, tick paralysis etc. There is no doubt he needs to be seen by a vet. If unable to transport him, you may need to request an emergency home visit from your local clinic.

Dec. 18, 2020

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