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Will dog with broken back recover?

Species: Dog
Breed: mixed
Age: 2-5 years
Hi Dr. Marie,

Our dog pulled out of her collar and was hit by a vehicle Saturday morning, 09/18. We rushed her to the vet, where they administered fluids through an IV for inflamation and pain. She was taken off the IV Sunday, I beleive.
Her back end is paralyzed; she cannot move her tail or hind legs, her reflexes work, but she has no response to pain when her toes were pinched; she has no feeling in her backend. When speaking to my vet, he said that he knwe she has a laceration of the spinal cord and nerves so there was no need for an x-ray, and that she did not seem to be in pain once taken off the IV. As far as my vet can tell, she is unable to go to the bathroom on her own; she has urinated, but they think it is due to the bladder overflowing, and not of her own free will. We had spoken to our vet about the use of a canine wheelchairs as an option instead of euthanasia, but made it clear that we would have to express her bowels, and that because she is a large dog, that managability would be very difficult.
We also asked for his personall opinon in which way he would go, and he said that he would have euthanasied her that Saturday. I also called another vet to get a second opinion on the matter; after explaining the situation, he gave the same opinion as our vet.
Sadie is the second dog of three rescuese that we have raised from a pup and has become part of our family. My partner and I are willing to whatever seems to be best for our dog... being that it seems that you work very closely to disabled dogs, I wanted to get your opinion on the situation: Do you find it selfish or think it is an option, in this situation, to bring her home and have her spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair and in diapers, do you think her quality of life would be good, or do think it would be better to euthanasia her.

Thank you for your time,
Misty S.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh, I am really sorry to hear about Sadie's accident. Unfortunately I have seen a number of dogs with similar problems.

I am really sorry to say this but from what you have described, the chances of Sadie having a happy life from this point on are small.

Where I get a little optimistic for paralyzed dogs is when they have FCE (fibrocartilaginous embolism), or sometimes when they have IVDD (intervertebral disc disease). However, if the spinal cord is severed due to trauma then the chances get smaller.

In a little dog with spinal trauma it is possible to learn how to express the bladder and these dogs can do quite well in a cart. But in a bigger dog it would be almost impossible to express the bladder. This would mean she would be at risk for bladder rupture and kidney problems (due to the increase in pressure from the bladder always being full). There would also be the risk of urine scalding and infections in the bladder or on the skin around the vulva because of the leaking urine.

Also, if her bowels are not functioning properly then this will cause difficult problems as well.

Large dogs are also at a higher risk for bedsore type lesions when paralyzed as well.

I know this is a really hard decision, but I unfortunately would agree with the other vets that it may be best to consider euthanasia.

If you are not ready to do this yet, another option would be to have some xrays or even a myelogram done. A myelogram would have to be done at a referral hospital and can be expensive. These tests can probably tell us the extent of the damage and whether there is any possibility of recovery.

It is certainly worthwhile to try her on anti-inflammatory medications for a period of a few days or weeks and see how things go.

I'm so sorry that this has happened.

I will be heading offline shortly, but if you have more concerns, hit reply and I will be back on later today.

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. AskAVetQuestion.com 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 very much for your evaluation. It really means alot to be able to make a sound decision when we are so very emotional about the situation. We want to do the right thing for her, even if the right thing is the hardest for us. Without your help, we would have always carried doubt that there was more that we could do. Now we can do the right thing and know that we really are. Thank you.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I'm glad to be able to help but wish I could have given you more positive advice. I hope everything goes ok. It sounds like you love Sadie so much. I know this is hard but it is the right thing to do.



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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.