Cases of dogs with paralysis are frustrating not only for the animal but also for the owner, who initially believes that the life of his dog is finished, and in many cases ends up sacrificing him. Fortunately, today there are treatments and assistive devices that help him perform daily activities such as moving, playing, running, walking, relieving himself and in many cases, regaining mobility.
Paralysis may be reversible or permanent, appear suddenly or gradually, and may affect the limbs or the face. It´s important to identify the causes that led to the situation of the dog, which will let us estimate if he´ll be able to regain mobility and to determine the best treatment.
Common causes of paralysis
- Congenital diseases: among them there´s degenerative disc disease, which causes the membrane surrounding the spinal cord to decompose.
- Infectious diseases: such as distemper or rabies.
- Malignant tumors: they affect specific body parts depending on the area where the tumor is located. If it´s in the central nervous system it can affect one or both sides of the face or the body. Spinal tumors can affect the limbs, leaving them paralyzed.
- Spinal cord or neck injury: usually happens by accident or sudden movement. It causes permanent damage, whether it´s in the front or rear members, left or right side of the body.
- Accidents and trauma: your dog may suffer trauma due to an accident and experience paralysis due to the shock. If there´s no injury involving the motor area, the paralysis is temporary.
- Poison: ingesting Botulinum Toxin through contaminated food.
- Tick bite: its saliva contains toxins that enter the bloodstream of the dog, producing paralysis. A type of tick called “Ixodes holocyclus” is a common cause of paralysis in dogs.
“Ixodes Holocyclus”, paralyzing tick
Signs or symptoms that may indicate that your dog is suffering from paralysis
- He refuses to get up.
- He can´t move the 4 legs (tetraplegia).
- He can´t move the back legs (paraplegia).
- Unable to urinate, or has difficulty controlling urination.
- Trouble controlling bowel movements or suffers from constipation.
- Walks as if he´s drunk.
How to take care for a dog suffering from paralysis?
– He´ll frequently suffer from urinary and fecal incontinence, so it´s important to keep him clean in order to prevent infection and odors. There are diapers for dogs and dry shampoos to make this cares easier.
– He may get ulcers due to his limited mobility, especially in the elbows, hips and ankles. There are bandages which can protect him from this.
– Buying an orthopedic bed is crucial for keeping pressure points from transforming into ulcers. It´s important that the bed material is washable.
Dog on orthopedic bed
– Investing in a harness is very helpful for moving and transporting him in his closest environment and for helping him do his business.
Treatment depends on the causes that generated the paralysis and the severity of the disease. If it´s been caused by an infection or an intervertebral hernia, the condition can be treated with medication, surgery or therapy. Tumors or blood flow obstructions are usually treated surgically, depending on its location.
Hydrotherapy is used in dogs with locomotion problems, for those who are in the postoperative phase and can´t stand normally on their legs, but also for those who are nervous, overweight and hyperactive, as it relaxes. This treatment exercises the inactive muscles through the water pressure exerted on the dog´s body.
Some of the physiotherapeutic techniques used include: cold and heat therapy (for relaxing and reducing pain), laser (for skin lesions), magnetic therapy (magnetic blankets to relax muscles), electrical stimulation (to stimulate the muscles, nerves and increasing blood flow) and massages. Technical aids such as wheelchairs, harnesses and orthopedic splints serve as a support to facilitate treatment and daily activities.
They´re designed to help dogs with hip and limbs problems, including degenerative myelopathy, hip dysplasia, arthritis, intervertebral hernia, spinal problems and neurological disorders, as well as part of the recovery from a surgery. Most dogs adapt very well to a wheelchair and the most important thing is that they can still enjoy life.
Recommended wheelchair: Walkin´ Wheels.
Used for fractures, fissures, damage on foot, tarsus or leg, and boot-shaped for finger injuries.
They´re useful for dogs with hip dysplasia, hip osteoarthritis, muscular weakness and motor incoordination. There are different sizes (SML-XL-XXL-XXXL) and different kinds of harness for dogs with reduced mobility in the limbs.
Full body harness
Used to have more control of the animal after undergoing surgery, or in older dogs with arthritis.
A team of scientists from the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Cambridge and the Centre of Regenerative Medicine (both located in the UK) have managed to reverse paralysis in dogs after injecting a cell culture from the snout´s mucous membrane into the spinal cord. These results provide hope for the treatment on human patients with similar spine injuries. In this link you can read about this research.
Note: if you are interested in more information about paralyzed dogs, you can receive a notification when I publish the e-book in which I have been working during the past year, which includes information on paralysis-related diseases and measures to prevent accidents in dogs. Sign up for our email newsletter in order to get notified.
And finally, here’s a touching video that covers the recovery from paralysis of a dog named Dusty. Enjoy it 🙂