Paralysis in Dogs

Paralysis is the inability of an animal to move (and feel anything in) all or part of the body. It occurs when communication between brain and spinal cord is partly or completely disrupted.

Ability of an animal to move around and perform daily activities is dependent on ability of brain, spine, nerves and muscles to coordinate in unision. It is a complex communication system which starts with nerves in the brain sending signals about outer environment to the body, and the body sending messages to the brain about what it is actually experiencing. This message transmission occurs through spinal cord which is embeded in the spinal column (vertebral column). The nerves in the brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system of the body. A trauma to any part of this pathway can result in miscommunication or complete lack of communication to the brain or the body and an inability to coordinate body's movement.

A paralysis is often due to partial or complete disruption of communication between spinal cord and brain. Complete paralysis occurs when all communication is disrupted and the dog is unable to move any of its four legs (tetraplegia) while in partial (paresis) paralysis, some communication is still ongoing and the dog may be partially affected.

Dog breeds that are low to ground with long backs, such as dachshunds and basset hounds, are more likely to be affected by ruptured vertebral disks putting pressure on the spinal cord, a condition called intervertebral disc disease. Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is a slow acting, progressive disorder that affects nerves in the spine of older dogs. Breeds affected by this disease include the Welsh Corgi, boxer, German shepherd, Chesapeake Bay retriever, and Irish setter.

Common signs of paralysis include

Not able to move all four legs (tetraplegia)

Not able to move the rear legs (paraplegia)

Walking with the front feet while dragging the rear legs

Possibly pain in the neck, spine or legs

Not able to urinate

Not able to control urination, dribbling urine

Not able to control defecation


Leave a Comment