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Paralyzed dog.

Species: Dog
Breed: Shepherd/Huskie Mix
Age: 8-11 years
O.K, here is the deal. Our dog Sadie was diagnosed with a ruptured disc (L2) I believe, this past week, resulting in total, sudden paralysis. We have an excellent vet, and after a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, and massive injections of medicine, we ended up taking her home for this weekend. She has gone from almost zero pain response to almost normal tail wagging while laying down in the past two days. But, she still has no use of her legs, or bladder, and can sit, but with her rump tucked up under. Our vet, and my sister, a vet tech, say that tail wagging is a positive event, and that there may be some hope of eventual bladder and bowel control, providing some leg use returns. But, the general consensus with most everyone except me is to eventually put her down. They want to give it one week, to see some leg and bladder control. After that, apparently, there is no hope. I am devastated, and dehydrated from crying. Is there a chance, or are they correct. We are getting almost no sleep, and moving her in and out of the house, constantly cleaning up after her, much to the chagrin of my wife. I just cannot give up on her! I love her so much, and it is tearing me apart as to what to do. Thank you so much, Ron.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh no. This is such a difficult situation. I'll give you my thoughts, but I'm not sure if you will be any further ahead in your decision making.

First of all, when I see a dog with complete hind end paralysis following an accident, the prognosis is always very poor. But, you are right. The ability to wag her tail is an excellent sign. The problem is that no one knows whether the healing will continue or not. You may continue to see a gradual improvement, ending in complete healing. Or, you might see just a little bit more improvement but still no bladder or hind limb control.

I have seen cases like this go both ways. I've seen dogs remain completely paralyzed after a disc rupture. I can recall one case though of a very large Rottweiler that had complete hind limb paralysis. This case was very bad with no deep pain sensation at all. I recommended euthanasia but the owners did not want this. They carried this massive dog outside and supported him and did physiotherapy with him and after a few months he eventually did make a complete recovery.

What I can tell you is that this is not the norm though. The problem is that we don't know the extent of the damage in the spinal cord. If there is just swelling around the spinal cord then in another week or two you could see a dramatic improvement as the swelling goes down. But, if there is significant damage to the spinal cord, then the chances of it healing are small.

In cases like this, what I usually tell people is right off the bat, if there is complete paralysis with no deep pain, it is not wrong to euthanize because the odds say that there will not be a full recovery. If people want to try recovery, then I say to give it a few weeks. Write down every new thing that is happening so that you can get a sense of whether or not there is still healing. And then I recommend to set limits. What I mean by this is to have your family set some rules such as, "If in a week there is still no deep pain in the legs then we will go ahead with euthanasia." Or, "If in three weeks there is no leg movement then we will go ahead with euthanasia." It's never an easy decision though.

You may want to ask your vet if Sadie is a candidate for a doggie wheelchair. She would be a better candidate if she regains bladder control though.

I'm so sorry for this hard decision. I really do hope that she continues to improve.

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thank you sooooo much. What you have advised is what we have discussed. Just last night as I was massaging her left leg, she pulled away slightly. So, I massaged it again, and again she pulled away. And,, just this morning she appeared to slightly extend her left leg as I lifted her with the towel, as if she was trying to help herself up. As for now, we will continue hoping for small improvements every day. Thank you so much for taking the time to help me. If we do end up on the bright side, perhaps you would like an update. Then, Maybe, you could tell others about our story, and to not give up too soon. Sincerely,Ron Accidio

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

These are encouraging sounds! I would love for you to let me know how things work out. I'm praying for a complete recovery.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.