Dog Paralysis: Common Causes & Treatment

As a pet owner, paralysis is perhaps the scariest thing that can happen to your dog. A loss of mobility could mean the end for your furry friend, but it doesn’t necessarily have to. There is plenty you can do to care for your dog if he should suffer from partial or full paralysis.

There are different types of canine paralysis. Some cases can be sudden, while others can develop over time. Read below to learn what steps you can take if your dog ever suffers from paralysis as well as some preventative measures to ensure that your furry friend never has to experience this debilitating condition.

dog paralysis infographic

What are the signs and types of paralysis in dogs?

Paralysis in dogs is caused when communication between the spinal cord and brain has been disrupted. Sometimes the dog will not be able to move at all and have total paralysis, while other times your dog may only appear weak, or have difficulty moving.

The three types of canine paralysis are:

  • Tetraplegia – Unable to move all four legs

tetraplegia in dogs

  • Paraplegia – Unable to move the rear legs

paraplegia in dogs

  • Paresis – Partial paralysis, able to move, but uneasily

paresis in dogs

Symptoms of paralysis in dogs can range from obvious signs to subtler cues, depending on the location of the trauma. However, there are several things you can look out for:

  • Refusing to get up, or inability to move any of his legs
  • Walking with front legs while dragging his rear legs
  • Difficulty moving around
  • Pain in the neck, spine, or legs
  • Inability to control urination or bowel movements
  • Constipation

signs of dog paralysis

Causes of Paralysis in Dogs

If your dog was hit by a car or recently suffered from another traumatic event, the cause of your dog’s paralysis is obvious. However, sometimes symptoms may appear suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere. Identifying the cause of canine paralysis can help your veterinarian make a proper diagnosis and outline the best course of treatment to help your pup potentially regain mobility.

There are several common underlying conditions and environmental causes that can lead to dog paralysis, including:

Tick Bites

Surprisingly, the leading cause of paralysis in dogs is tick bites.

Certain species of ticks can inject a neurotoxin into your dog’s bloodstream when they bite. This toxin can cause a sudden neuron paralysis, which in some cases, may result in sudden paralysis. When this happens, you need to address the issue as quickly as possible. If left untreated, the paralysis will spread and can even become fatal. Tick paralysis is most often caused by multiple ticks, but sometimes it only takes one tick to cause paralysis.

causes of dog paralysis

Common signs that your dog was bitten by a tick include a loss of coordination and vomiting. Some dogs may even have changes in the tone and quality of their bark. The symptoms will usually begin to appear six to nine days after the tick has attached to the skin of the dog.

Luckily, tick bite paralysis can be easily treated with medication.

Congenital Diseases

There are several conditions in dogs that can leave them more predisposed to developing paralysis.

Chief among them is Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD). IVDD mainly affects chondrodystrophic breeds, or dogs with abnormally short legs, like Dachshunds. IVDD is a condition that occurs when the cushioning intervertebral discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column become ruptured or burst (herniate) into the spinal cord space. When this happens, the discs press on the nerves that run through the spinal cord, which can cause paralysis.

causes of dog paralysis

Another common cause of dog paralysis is Degenerative Myelopathy (DM). This genetic disease attacks the nerves in the spines of older dogs, and is a slow acting, progressive disorder that eventually leads to paralysis of the hind legs. Breeds affected by this disease include the Welsh Corgi, Boxer, German Shepherd, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and Irish Setter.

Larger dogs are also susceptible to a disorder called Fibrocartilaginous Embolism. This occurs when a small portion of a spinal disc breaks off of your dog’s spinal column and blocks blood flow to a portion of his body. Th