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Dogs and Paralysis

Our four legged furry companions have much shorter lives than their human “parents” but regardless, can suffer from some of the same diseases and disabilities as humans.


One of those disabilities is paralysis.  Paralysis generally means that there is no longer the ability to voluntarily move parts of the body and, generally with dogs, it often means losing the use of their legs, either front or rear.


Canine Paralysis can be caused by a number of things and symptoms can include full or partial inability to move the legs, dragging the back legs, inability to urinate, incontinence, general weakness, reluctance to jump, walking with a hunched back, neck pain, shaking, panting or loss of appetite or lack of co-ordination.


If you notice any of these things, you should see your vet as soon as possible to find out the cause and/or cure or treatment. Paralysis can be caused by ticks, bacteria or viruses, or can be due to an injury, trauma or can even be hereditary.


Canine paralysis caused by illness is more common than a lot of people realize and diseases which can be caused by bacteria, viral infection, toxins, or immune reactions can sometimes lead to paralysis in dogs.


Infectious and inflammatory diseases can cause the spinal cord to become enlarged causing the paralysis, and can be caused by a number of different diseases. Constant exposure to pesticides can cause paralysis but, most commonly, tick bites are linked to systemic paralysis in dogs.


Coonhound Paralysis is generally associated with exposure to the saliva of raccoons and, although there is no medication available to treat this, the majority of dogs will recover.


A disease of the spinal column or a traumatic injury, such as a car accident, can also cause paralysis in dogs. If trauma happens, dogs can recover once the swelling and bruising of the spinal cord goes down and, if the damage is not too great, the spinal cord can repair itself.  However, if the damage is more extensive, the chances of a full recovery are less likely.


Disk Disease is also a common cause of canine paralysis and is most often seen in dogs with shorter legs and long backs.


Just as there are many breeds of dogs, there are also many reasons or causes for paralysis in dogs and professional medical advice from your vet is imperative.  Blood work can rule out different types of fungal, bacterial or viral diseases, but your vet may also need to do X-rays, MRI’s or CT Scans to accurately determine the cause of the paralysis.


Treatment of any paralysis depends on the cause and the extent of the paralysis but the prognosis for your pup can only be determined by your vet.


If your beloved pet does become paralyzed, it will mean a different way of living but, as long as you are prepared to work with your pet and your vet’s guidance, your pup can still lead a happy and good quality of life.


If your pup has lost use of his rear legs, but the front legs are strong, he may be a good candidate for a special “Dog Wheelchair”, and once he is fitted and gets used to walking in the wheelchair, he can maneuver around quite well.  You may also use a “Sling” which wraps around the under belly of your pup and you can help support his weight while moving around outside. 


When paralysis occurs in pups, it usually means that he has or will lose the ability to urinate on his own, or may also have fecal incontinence.  Your vet will show you how to “express” your pet’s bladder, which will have to be done on a regular basis several times each day.  If your pet also has fecal incontinence, he can wear a “doggy diaper” to help keep him clean.


So if your beloved, furry friend does develop a form of paralysis, the first step is to get professional help from your vet as soon as possible to diagnose the cause and the prognosis for the future.  But, with proper care, following the advice of your vet, and being an attentive pet parent, your pup can still live a good, healthy and long life.

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