A closer look: Paralysis in Dogs
Paralysis affects different parts of the body and varies in severity from partial to total paralysis. The different classifications of paralysis include:
- Paresis, or partial paralysis
- Front leg paralysis: front leg paralysis is commonly caused by nerve damage in the neck or front legs
- Rear leg paralysis (Paraplegia): rear leg paralysis is commonly caused by nerve damage in the lower back, or in the rear legs
- Front and rear leg paralysis (Tetraplegia): tetraplegia or full paralysis is commonly caused by an embolus, tick bites, or congenital disease
- Canine paralysis can occur suddenly or develop over time
Paralysis is brought about by a wide range of conditions.
Paralysis in dogs is not common, but is always a serious concern as many conditions that cause paralysis are life-threatening. Paralysis must always be treated as an emergency and immediate veterinary attention is required
Some breeds of dog are predisposed to conditions that may lead to paralysis, such as intervertebral disc disease and degenerative myelopathy.
Testing and diagnosis
A dog presenting paralysis requires the following diagnostics:
- Physical examination: reflex test, and test to ascertain the ability to feel pain in all four legs.
- Diagnostic imaging: such as MRI, myelogram, and CT scan
- Blood work and fluid samples taken from around the spine, can show changes suggestive of the underlying condition.
Treatment varies widely and is targeted at the root cause, but may include surgery in many cases.
Viral and fungal diseases have poor recovery rates, as there are no treatment options for viral infections and fungal infections are difficult to cure.
In the case of tick paralysis, recovery depends on how quickly the ticks are removed from the dog and severity of the paralysis.
Myasthenia gravis is a severe chronic autoimmune disorder that causes the destruction of communication between nerves and muscles resulting in severe weakness and fatigue which can be confused with paralysis.
Dogs suffering from paralysis may present a number of additional symptoms.