Paralysis in dogs can be one of the most frightening conditions that any owner will ever face as it can literally strike at any time.
What makes this potentially life threatening situation ever more troubling is that it has several different causes and can affect any dog at any age.
Although it can be temporary in some cases, it can also be a permanent condition.
For this reason, if your dog becomes paralyzed for any reason at all, the quicker you seek professional medical help the better chance your dog has.
Paralysis in dogs is a condition where they develop a total loss of their muscle functions in one or several of their muscle groups.
When this occurs, they will experience a very sudden loss of both feeling and mobility in the affected areas and the paralysis can be either localized or generalized.
Most all forms of this frightening condition will involve your dog nervous system.
The nervous system is a set of electrical impulses that travel throughout your dog’s body via nerve fibers, which in turn deliver the message to cells and organs.
Chemical transmitters are also used for communication between these nerve cells and other tissues that are part of this communication process.
It has three primary systems in which it operates; the central, peripheral, and autonomic nervous system.
Paralysis can occur when any of these systems malfunction for a myriad of reasons.
The central nervous system in your dog is divided into several segments, and is made up of the brain, the brain stem, and the spinal cord.
The peripheral nervous system includes the nerves that run from the brain into several areas of your dog’s neck and head, as well as the nerves that both enter and exit the spinal cord.
The autonomic nervous system is yet another system that arises from the central system, and contains the nerves that control the involuntary movements of organs.
These include the heart, intestine, and the bladder, but include several other organs as well.
This system functions automatically and your dog has no control over it.
Paralysis in dogs, contrary to some misconceptions, does not necessarily involve the spinal cord or injuries to the spinal cord.
Rather, it is the result of some type of nerve damage that has occurred as the result of an injury, a malfunction, or infections that include viral, bacterial, or fungal.
The most common cause of paralysis in dogs is known as radical nerve paralysis and results in your pet’s inability to use their front legs normally.
With this form of paralysis your dog will suddenly become lame and will start to drag their front paw on the ground.
The radical nerve is your dog’s largest nerve in their front leg and has the responsibility of extending their elbow, wrist, and toes.
It also helps to provide sensations to the upper-outside surface of their leg and the upper surfaces of their paw.
It originates under their front leg from a bundle of nerves that start in the spinal cord in the neck area. When this nerve is injured in some manner, it causes the front leg or legs to become paralyzed.
The actual severity will all depend on the amount of damage and where on the limb the damaged has occurred.
The next most common cause of paralysis in dogs is from a trauma to your dog’s leg right above their elbow.
However, it may also be the result of your pet’s limb being pulled away from their body or by a tumor in the originating nerve source.
When this form of paralysis in dogs occurs, your pet will not be able to move their triceps muscle as well as the muscles that extend in their front legs.
As a result, their leg will remain either flexed or bent. The prognosis with the form of paralysis will all depend on the severity of the damage.
It may be temporary and would similar to bending a wire as it can rerun back to normal.
If it is ruptured, this would be like the wire breaking. The nerve muscles in your dog, however, do grow back around the rate of 1 mm a day.
Depending on the length of the rupture it does have a chance to repair itself, but it may take several weeks or even months.
However, if it is completely severed, there is no chance at all of it ever returning to normal.
The next common type of paralysis in dogs is facial nerve paralysis.
This is a condition where your dog’s facial nerve, which is the 7th cranial nerve, has caused the improper function or the complete paralysis of the muscles that are associated with facial expressions.
This can cause your dog to lose their ability to blink, start to tilt their head, as well as very abnormal eye movements.
It can also cause your dog’s lips to droop, and as a result, they cannot hold food in their mouth. They will also develop a very severe and excessive salivation.
The common causes of this type of paralysis start with trauma, but can also include neuromuscular diseases, inflammation of the central nervous system, or cancer.
It may also be the result of a recent surgery that has involved your dog’s ears or their surrounding structures.
There is no specific treatment for this form of paralysis in dogs, but the ocular complications will need to be addressed with artificial tears.
Over time, some of the muscles will contracture or shorten, and this may lessen the symptoms, especially with their lips and mouth.
The next type of paralysis in dogs is referred to as acute polyradiculoneuritis, or as it is more commonly known, coon-hound paralysis.
This vicious form of paralysis attacks dogs very suddenly and is a widespread disorder of the peripheral nervous system.
This is a disease that causes damage to the nerves themselves, as well as your dog’s myelin.
This is a very specialized substance that surrounds the nerves and makes rapid transmission of nerve impulses possible.
The actual cause is unknown, but it is believed to be an immune mediated process where inflamed white blood cells attack your dog’s nerves.
Under normal circumstances the immune system protects against this type of attack, but in this case it is attacking itself.
It is seen primarily in hunting dogs and usually results after an exposure to raccoons and is believed to be something in the raccoon’s saliva that triggers it.
It will cause your dog to become extremely weak and starts with a paralysis in their hind legs that will soon spread to all of their limbs.
Eventually they will not be able to stand at all. It also affects their larynx, and as a result they will develop a very weak bark.
There is no method of treatment other than supportive care, which will include constant rubbing of their limbs. Recovery in most all cases does occur, but it can take several weeks.
Paralysis in dogs can also include myelopathy, which is a form of spinal paralysis and is caused by an interruption of the blood supply to your dog’s spinal cord, but it is quite uncommon.
Aspergillosis is another possible cause of paralysis and is a fungal infection that attacks your dog’s nose cavity and respiratory system.
Tick bite paralysis is also possible, but it is also very uncommon and only affects dogs in certain parts of the United States.
Paralysis can be a devastating condition as well as a very frightening experience for both you and your dog.
If you see any signs at all of paralysis, you need to seek immediate medical attention.
In most cases, it is usually temporary unless the nerve damage is extensive and the nerve fibers are cut to an extent that they will never grow back together.