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As with most types of medical symptoms or conditions there is always more than one possible cause for spinal paralysis in dogs. Understanding what caused the paralysis in the first place is essential in being able to successfully diagnose, treat and even limit the progression of the paralysis. Since there are so many different possible causes of spinal paralysis understanding what the causes are for your breed of dog is important.
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In the long, low to the ground breeds with stubby legs and longer backs such as Dachshunds and Basset Hounds spinal paralysis is often caused by intervertebral disc disease that is caused by the rupturing of the discs putting pressure on the spinal cord and resulting in paralysis. In a more breed specific spinal paralysis known as Dachshund paralysis the condition can often be reversed and prevented if the back problem is detected early and the dog is provided lots of restricted movement time and hydrotherapy to strengthen the muscles along the back and hind quarters to prevent permanent spinal paralysis.
In Corgies, German Shepherds and Irish Setters degenerative myelopathy can cause full paralysis and is caused by damage to the neurological cells and fibers that carry messages down the spine. This is more common in older dogs and there is no known cure or treatment to prevent the progression of the disorder.
A fibrocartilaginous embolism can occur in the spine that causes the disc to completely rupture and small parts to break off. These small pieces of cartilage do not put pressure in the spinal cord, rather they imbed themselves in the spinal cord, resulting in incomplete signals between the limbs and the brain.
Meningomyelitis is a bacterial, viral or inflammatory conditions that cause the messages from the brain to the limbs to be mixed, resulting in full to partial paralysis. Often these conditions if treated with the correct drug therapy can be reversed as long as the muscles have not severely atrophied. Physical rehabilitation and hydrotherapy or using water to support the dog's weight while they regain their ability to move is very helpful and has been extremely successful in allowing these dogs to walk again. Beagles are often prone to this type of neck and back paralysis that is known as Beagle neck pain syndrome.
Discospondylitis is an infection in a vertebrae and the corresponding disc that causes extreme pain when the dog tries to move. Usually this infection is caused by a blood born bacterial or virus that attacks an already weakened disc, often one that is in the early to advanced stages of degeneration. Treatment with antibiotics, steroids and anti-inflammatories is often very helpful although the vertebrae will continue to be weakened by the infection.
There are also birth defects and genetic conditions that can predispose a dog or puppy to back problems leading to eventual paralysis. As with any type of progressive condition early diagnosis and ongoing supportive treatment is needed to help the dog adjust to limited mobility.
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