Paralysis in dogs


Sudden paralysis in Rottweiler

Q: I am writing at this time because my dog Jack has mysteriously come down with an inability to move. Tuesday morning, March 13th, he came in from the outside and just collapsed. I took him to the local hospital and they put him on a gurney and brought him in to observation. He would try to stand on his fours, but they would buckle under him. They thought it was a cervical injury, slippage on ice, etc. However, after having anesthesia and an xray, they said the xray seemed clear of neck injury. However, they want him to take an MRI or CT. He recognizes me, eats for me and wags his tail. He is lifting his neck, but his legs just won't pick him up. He is soooo frustrated. He is mentally very stable, alert, and sweet. Have you heard of anything recently so bizarre. I need answers fast. I want him to stay alive. He will be seven years' old on May 24th. He weighs 125 lbs., all shots up to date, and an otherwise very healthy dog. Help!!!!

A: Donna- I think that your vets are suggesting a good course of action from a diagnostic standpoint. Many spinal conditions, including some forms of trauma, some tumors and many cases of intervertebral disc disease won't show up on ordinary X-rays. For this reason, an MRI or CT scan can be very helpful. In addition it would be a good idea to keep in mind the possibility of a lower motor neuron disorder such as polyradiculoneuritis (coonhound fever), tick paralysis, polyneuropathy of rottweilers (a congenital disorder that usually shows up in early adult years of 1 to 4) and even botulism, although that seems a little unlikely. Anecdotally, rottweilers seem to be prone to tick paralysis, so checking carefully for ticks would be a good idea, if that seems like a possibility. Myasthenia gravis also seems possible with the signs seen. If your vet is not able to come up with a diagnosis it may be possible to ask for a referral to a veterinary neurologist in your area, as well. It is a good first step to rule out the spinal injuries as completely as possible. I am not aware of really good tests for polyradiculoneuritis and tick paralysis but most patients do recover from these if they have good nursing care. Myasthenia gravis is tentatively diagnosed by adminstration of edrophonium chloride (Tensilon Rx). If improvement occurs, more specific testing through serology is possible. I hope that Jack is improving or that you at least have made some progress towards a diagnosis. Mike Richards, DVM 3/23/2001

Radial nerve paralysis

Q: Dr. Mike, My family is just going through the heart break of a loved doggy getting hit by a car. The good news is that he is going to make it. Unfortunately, he apparently has lost the use of his front, right leg. He cannot feel it. We are not sure if he will get the use of it back or if it will need to come off. I'm sure that I am looking for a miracle cure, but is there something I can do? He is a very fun and active dog to say the least. I have to believe that his quality of life is going to drop immensely. It happened yesterday. He is a two year old cairn terrier. Have you heard of methylsulfonylmethane? Could it help? Our vet said that Bogey's problem is more than likely a nerve problem and that we just don't know that much about it. So, I'm looking for something that may help. Massage, medications, whatever. Thank you for your time. Sincerely, Shelly

A: Dear Shelly It sounds like your dog probably has radial nerve paralysis. This nerve crosses bone just above the elbow and it is very vulnerable to injury when a dog is hit by a car. There is no treatment that I am aware of that helps the nerve regenerate if it is severely damaged. However, the nerve will often recover from the injury on its own. It is very important to do physical therapy to ensure that the muscles have not contracted too much for the leg to work when the nerve does regenerate. When the nerve is completely damaged the foot tends to turn inward and become contracted in that position. Splinting the foot may prevent this inward turning and allow some use even if the nerve won't heal. It may not be too late to consider this option if recovery has not occurred. In other cases, nothing seems to help much and amputation is necessary because the dog tends to try to walk on its wrist area since that is where the bend inwards occurs. This leads to chronic skin ulcers and infections and amputation stops these problems. I hope this turned out OK for you. Mike Richards, DVM

Facial Nerve Paralysis - Boxer

Q: Can CGVD be associated with a facial nerve palsey? I'm hoping our nine year old boxer does not have a brain tumor.

A: Raymond - I think that peripheral vestibular disorder in dogs does occasionally include facial paralysis as a sign. Presence of this sign is a good reason to carefully consider other possible causes such as inner ear infection or tumors, though. Mike Richards, DVM


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...