Prompt treatment in Rear Leg Paralysis



Dr. James Howard Sometimes the question arises as to whether to treat rear leg lameness due to ruptured intervertebral discs medically or surgically.

Unless they are promptly treated dogs that suffer from this disease, as a rule, become permanently paralyzed.

A couple of months ago four dogs with sudden-onset rear-leg paralysis were presented at our hospital.  They all had marked proprioception deficiency of their rear legs and couldn’t sense where their rear feet were placed, patellar reflexes were depressed, the dogs dragged their rear legs when they tried to walk, and all were in severe pain.  Radiographs showed no indication of vertebral fracture, dislocation, infection, or metastatic cancer.  The diagnosis for each dog was rupture of an intervertebral disc of the spine with injury of the over-lying spinal cord resulting in the dogs’ symptoms.

All dogs were treated medically for two days to control spinal cord inflammation at the compression site, to support energy metabolism by injured spinal cord cells and assure their survival, and to reduce the dogs’ pain.

Three of the dogs were sent home with follow up gluco-corticoid treatment for two more days and one dog had the injury site surgically repaired.  This dog was the most severely compromised neurologically.

All dogs were confined for one month to prevent excess activity which might further injure the spinal cord.  Two months later all dogs walked, ran, and played normally.  One would even jump up on the sofa.  It appeared that there was no residual functional impairment of any of the dogs.

The sooner treatment begins after the disc rupture the better the outcome will be.   Should your dog suddenly develop rear-leg paralysis get it to your veterinarian right away.  Sometimes rear-leg lameness and pain develop without paralysis, this too may be a sign of intervertebral disc disease, and should be seen promptly by a veterinarian.  In any case do not wait to see if the dog will recover spontaneously.

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  1. My 8 yo dog (wheaten terrier) experienced this – sudden rear leg paralysis. He was just getting up like normal and then starting yelping in pain like he never had before. He thrashed about and then was dragging his rear right leg and couldn’t put any weight on it. Took him to one vet assuming it was a broken leg (emergency hosp. as it was 10pm). They said no, it was prob. a spinal injury and sent us to another more advanced place. $800 later (just for exams, x-rays and over night observation), the vet recommended a $2500 MRI with most likely scenario surgery for a ruptured disk (for more $). We weren’t willing to pay that much just for a diagnostic test that may or may not have an answer. So, we took him home, gave him steroids and pain killers, and tried to make him as comfortable as possible. It was a TOUGH week – imagine all the messes to clean up for a dog that can hardly move and without fecal control, plus hand feeding, water through a syringe, then diarrhea from the meds. . . Now, four weeks later, he’s back to normal, running around on all fours, full appetite, etc. We’re calling him “Lazarus” as it’s like he came back from the dead. No idea what caused it but we’re so glad to have him back. The vets we saw that night gave us no hope of a full recovery. The only lingering problem is that he doesn’t lift his leg to pee now so it often hits his front paws.

  2. i have a Labra dog age 11 months, but she is unable to walk as her hind legs got paralysis so kindly suggest any treatment for my dog plz plz. he is not able to walk since 15 days and is under treatment by Vet. Doctor. The blood is also coming in the urine. Please advise as I cannot see her in pain. plzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  3. My chocolate lab, 6 years old, jumped for a frisbee and came diwn with a scream of agon. It has been one week. Her left hind leg has no strenth and she cannot put it in place. She is in no pain, but definitely knows she cant walk. She can urinate niw but has no fecal control. M vet believes it is a spinal injury ruptured disc. Do we have hope? We are so sad over this as she has always been a happy dog. We are keeping her resting at all times.

    • My 4 year old medium sized dog was injured jumping off the couch. Both her front & rear right legs were paralyzed. The vet prescribed pain pills, anti-imflammatory and muscle relaxer. I carried her everywhere for 2 weeks until she was able to regain strength in her rear leg. She hopped around on 3 legs for a couple of weeks. It’s been 5 weeks now and she has regained full use of both legs. We have to limit her avtivity as she could re-injure according to vet.

  4. i have a Labra dog age 32 months, but he is unable to walk as his hind legs got paralysis so kindly suggest any treatment for my dog. he is not able to walk since 15 days and is under treatment by Vet. Doctor. The blood is also coming in the urine. Please advise as I cannot see him in pain.

  5. This also sounds like pound disease is a distinct back that sounds like it got a sore throat followed by rear legs losing strength can sometimes be total paralysis takes about three months to recover. All you need to do is make sure that he is on antibiotics so it doesn’t develop into a none Pnemonia .. water therapy and acupuncture helps dog recover quicker

  6. dear sir,

    i have a German shepherd dog age 11 months, but he is unable to walk as his hind legs got paralysis so kindly suggest any treatment for my dog. he is not able to walk since 3 months sir suggest me i love my dog very much.

    • Sir I have had a dog with a similar situation .. He developed coons hound disease. It causes paralysis. He started walking again after 3 months of water therapy and acupuncture. Don’t feed him chicken either.

      • Sorry can you clarify why a dog should not eat chicken? My dog just suddenly lost use of hind legs. I am feeding him organic chicken and carrots?

  7. sir I my 8 months old golden retreiver fallill with symptems of cold and cough he treated by vet doctor he given him some injections he was normal but after few days he suffer with seizure while on walking after 3 hrs he again do the same I again take him to vet hospital doctor again give him injection and some med like gardenal we started his treatment dog 3 to four time repeated seizure in next one weak but after this he never but another problem started he feels weakness in rear legs and now he can walk standup some time with support and some time himself but not so active we are taking his treatment but the condition is not improving kindly advise what to do I always think about him.