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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 (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.

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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 expected. 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, 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 is carrying Lyme disease, the virus 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 Lyme disease can be fatal. 

Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD)

This disease is most commonly found in dogs with long vertebrae such as the Dachshund. In older dogs, or dogs that experience spinal trauma or some kind, IVDD typically results 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 paralysis. IVDD has the possibility of being reversed through a series of injections provided by your veterinarian that can help your dog to overcome the paralysis and continue living a comfortable life. 

Bacterial Infections 

Infections such as rabies can actually be a major factor when it comes to a dog being unable to move. This terrible disease rips through the brain and begins to destroy the important connections that allow the dog to move properly. If the virus continues to ravage your dog, the end result will be death so it is extremely important to get your pet to the vet as soon as possible in order to obtain treatment. As this infection is often fatal, a vaccine is recommended.


If a tumor develops on your dog’s spine paralysis will occur. Unlike with Lyme disease, which is an instant paralysis, a tumor causes paralysis to occur slowly; meaning that the paralysis will begin with the back legs and slowly work its way up to the front. The tumor will send out toxins throughout your dog’s body, and because the spine is connected to the brain, those toxins can be fatal. 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.

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.

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 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 is a serious disease that does not have a cure once clinical signs appear. 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.

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.

Unable to Move Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Maltese Pomeranian
12 Years
Critical condition
0 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

Trouble breathing

My dog Teddy has had Cushing’s Desease for months now, and we had to give him insulin to stay stabilized. All of a sudden, he was no longer able to move and was twitching.

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8 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Having trouble moving

My dog is about 8yrs old and during the day she runs around and plays with no problems but at night at bed time she can’t hardly move hollers when touched or picked up and tonight I found a knot on her neck could it be arthritis

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
Without examining Sophie I cannot say what the specific cause is or why she is active during the day but is in pain during the night; you should try to keep Sophie rested for a few days and restrict movement but ideally you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination (and possibly an x-ray) to narrow in on an underlying cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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10 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms


What should I do if my dog is not moving? He can still bark and move his head. He can eat and drink with assistance. He has not moved for two days. We have washed him and we trimmed his nails to see if that would help but still he has not changed. His family is out of town for a short time.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
Without examining Boby I cannot start to say what the possible cause for this paralysis is; if he is unable to move you should take him to a Veterinarian immediately for an examination to be on the safe side. Trauma, blood clots, intervertebral disc disease, stroke among many other causes may lead to paralysis; this is something that should be treated as an emergency. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Blue Heeler/Rottweiler
9 Years
Critical condition
0 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

No bowel movements
Can not move
Gagging yesterday

Medication Used

3 Advil throughout day

Is there something I can do to help my dog? She is an old farm dog, which I have had since a puppy. Gagging occasionally is not unusual for her, because she eats grass and livestock grain that has fallen out of a bucket. Please Help... If nothing at all... at least something to help ease the pain.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
Firstly Advil (ibuprofen) is toxic to dogs and shouldn’t be used at all unless under the guidance of a Veterinarian, dosage is generally around 2.5mg/lb with signs of poisoning occurring with doses over 4mg/lb/day; administration can lead to kidney failure and gastrointestinal bleeding, both of which may be fatal. You should take Lacey to your Veterinarian for an examination immediately for a review of pain relief and a general examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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