Causes of Paralysis in Dogs

Paralysis in dogs may occur suddenly or have a gradual onset. The canine paralysis may be caused by a wide range of causes including an inherited disease or a tick bite. It is important to notice the first signs of paralysis and seek veterinary advice to treat the condition and if possible, restore the dog’s normal functions.

Tick Bite

A tick bite may lead to paralysis in dogs. The paralysis is due to the fact that the saliva of the tick contains a toxin that will cause gradual paralysis and even death. Not all ticks contain toxins that cause paralysis.

Watch out for symptoms such as

  • vomiting
  • lethargy
  • changes in the dog’s voice
  • lack of coordination
  • paralysis of one limb

To prevent tick infections, you should always check your pet for ticks and remove the tick within 4 hours of the bite. You may also apply preventive tick and flea treatment in your pet.

Degenerative Disc Disease

The paralysis may be caused by an inherited disease known as the degenerative disc disease. This disease is more common in certain dog breeds such as Poodles, Dachshunds or Cocker Spaniels.

The disease will manifest when the dog is an adult and typically after the age of 3. The lining around the spinal cord will start to degenerate and the inner disc compounds will press on the spinal cord, causing gradual paralysis. This condition may be treated and the paralysis may be reversed through administration of drugs and painkillers. In more severe cases, surgery may be required.

Ear Infections

Ear infections affecting the dog may develop into facial paralysis. Watch out for symptoms such as drooling, inability to eat or swallow, stiffened lips and incapacity to blink.

Facial paralysis occurs when the middle ear is infected and the nerves that control the facial muscles are also affected. The ear infection may be treated with antibiotics and this will restore the function of the facial muscles.

The facial paralysis may occur due to a stroke, a brain problem or for no known reasons. For idiopathic facial paralysis, there is no known treatment.

Ischemic Myelopathy

The ischemic myelopathy or fibrocartilaginous embolism is a condition that is most present in larger dog breeds. The condition is caused by the dislocation of a piece of spinal disc, which may enter the spinal artery and block the blood from getting in the spine.

The paralysis is sudden and may occur in one or both sides of the dog.

The condition requires no treatment and typically goes away within a few weeks.


Paralysis may be caused by poisoning and the ingestion of toxic items. In severe cases, the poisoning may lead to paralysis. You should keep your dog away from dangerous foods, plants and other items such as rat poison.


Certain infections such as rabies or the canine distemper may also cause paralysis. The paralysis may be due to the inflammation of the brain and cannot be reversed.