Home Dog Health Paralysis in Dogs: 5 Things to Do For Sudden Dog Paralysis

Paralysis in Dogs: 5 Things to Do For Sudden Dog Paralysis

The brain, spine, nerves, and muscles all work together for our bodies and dogs' bodies to move. 

Nerves transmit signals from the brain to the body and vice versa. 

If there is a glitch in the system somewhere, the messages won't make it to their destination, and you (or your dog) won't be able to move. 

This is when a dog is paralyzed.

This is a basic explanation but bear with me. 

Any trauma affecting your pet's nerves can affect his ability to move. 

Sometimes, the damage is extensive (like his vertebrae), and complete paralysis will be experienced. 

Other times, the damage is mild, and there may still be some use of the limbs.

Breeds that are more prone to developing conditions that cause canine paralysis include:

  • Basset Hounds
  • Dachshunds
  • Welch Corgis
  • German Shepherds
  • Boxers
  • Irish Setters
  • Chesapeake Bay Retrievers

Seeing your dog unable to move is a terrifying and emotional experience. 

While I hope you never have to go through this, there are a few things you should know to prepare for the worst. 

If you find your dog unable to move, here are five things you should do right away to help make sure you take the best care of your friend.

ALSO READ: The Ultimate Guide of First Aid for Dogs – 7 Vital Things Every Dog Owner Must Know

Paralysis in Dogs: 5 Things to Do if Your Dog is Paralyzed

Things to Do if Your Dog is Paralyzed

Stay Calm and Don't Move Him

While this is probably the most impossible thing on this list, don't panic and lose your mind when you see your dog paralyzed. 


You have to think clearly and analyze the situation, or you could make a wrong move and cause more damage.

Do not move your dog

The worst thing you could do now is pick up your pup and try to get him to move or otherwise affect his body.

Just like when a human gets injured, we are told not to move them if they have a spinal or neck injury; the same goes for dogs. 

When the dog is paralyzed, paralysis is often caused by trauma or severe injury.

Figure out what that is before you can take any next steps.

Check Your Dog from Top to Bottom

Pay attention to what is happening with your dog. 

If your pup is conscious, keep him calm by talking while you explore his skin and fur from head to toe. 

If someone else is with you, have that person work alongside you so you can get the job done faster. 

When your dog becomes paralyzed suddenly, time is of the essence.

Things to Do if Your Dog is Paralyzed

Trauma and injury isn't the only thing that causes paralysis.

Another very common reason for paralysis is snake bites, other animals, and parasite bites, especially from ticks, which is well-known as tick paralysis.

Look for any bumps, cuts, bulges, and especially bug bites or ticks. 

If you find any bugs or ticks, remove them immediately and then call the vet (properly). 

Make sure you note what the bug or tick looks like in case there is venom the vet needs to be aware of.

You also need to put the pest in a resealable zipper baggy. 

Bring it to your veterinarian's office if they want to send it to the lab for testing.

If you don't find anything, call the vet and ask how to carry your dog to the car without causing further damage. 

If nothing is indicating what is wrong, you don't want to hurt your furry friend on the way to get help.

RELATED: 25 Most Serious Dog Health Symptoms That Cannot Be Ignored 

Don't Give Your Dog Anything

Your first instinct may be to give your dog water to help him recover, but that is wrong. 

Do not give your pet any treats or water. 

If your dog is paralyzed, his throat may not work well, and he won't be able to swallow anything. 

He may also have trouble getting sufficient oxygen, which would only worsen the situation.

Your dog's paralysis could be some sort of restriction on his breathing pathways, such as Laryngeal paralysis affecting your dog's larynx. 

The only thing you must do at this point is to bring the dog to the vet immediately if you can. 

Even if you're trying to cheer him up by giving him a treat, it's just not a good idea. 

You want to make sure that you don't do anything to restrict his airway any further.

Drive to Vet Emergency Hospital

I've always wondered why they don't have animal ambulances. 

If you've ever been in the middle of a pet emergency like dog paralysis, the last thing you want to do is make it worse or more painful. 

For example, if you load your pup into your car and drive over bumpy roads to the animal hospital.

This is especially true if you live in a rural area, which could mean an hour or more drive. 

At the same time, you're upset and worried about your canine companion. 

So if your dog is paralyzed, that would be the time. 

Unfortunately, that's exactly what you're going to have to do.

Try to recruit someone to help you if you are alone when the paralysis occurs and help secure your dog in a car

You shouldn't be driving yourself when you're nervous unless it's the last option. 

And wouldn't it be nice if someone could drive you while you sit with your dog and do your best to calm them down?

Remember to call ahead to ensure the vet knows you're coming and can get your dog in to be seen immediately. 

Drive as slowly and carefully as possible, especially if you're alone. 

Your dog can't balance himself like usual, and you don't want him getting injured. 

Using a dog car seat belt may or may not work, depending on the situation.

Let the Vet Work

Your vet must get your dog into an X-ray machine right away.

They will also do complete lab tests for blood and urine to make sure your dog's levels are normal (they probably aren't, given the paralysis).

While it's emotional to leave your dog's side at such a time, you must let the tech and the vet do their job.

So when your dog is paralyzed and you've just taken him to the vet, it's time to relax and give yourself a breather.

The professionals will sort the situation out properly.

After the Diagnosis  

Depending on what is actually going on with your dog, your veterinarian will have several different recommendations for you. 

Dog paralysis can happen for several reasons: epilepsy and seizures, Lyme disease, infection, poisoning/toxicity, snake or parasite bites, a slipped disc or disc disease, and many other reasons.

After the Diagnosis of Dog Paralysis

The vet will give you a treatment plan for your dog, and if the dog is going to recover from paralysis, you will get to take him home soon.

Once you get him home, you'll have much to do to help your dog get better.

Physical Therapy

Especially for dogs who have a slipped disc or even Lyme disease, physical therapy can help them gain their strength and agility back.

Much like humans, physical therapy can happen a couple of times weekly.

PT can go on indefinitely until the effects of the paralysis have been worked out.

Water Therapy

Some veterinarians offer this fantastic, fairly new therapy for their animal clients. 

Because swimming is a great, no-impact activity, it helps recently paralyzed animals learn how to move again.

It removes the risk of falling or putting pressure on his painful joints and bones.

Often, you can even get in the water with your dog, making it a pleasant experience for everyone. 

You may need the help of a professional at first.

But once you learn the basics of dog water therapy, you can continue using your own dog swimming pool.

Pet Massage

Who doesn't like a massage? 

For paralyzed pooches, a massage can stimulate blood flow and muscle growth in the affected areas and help relieve a little bit of the pain that comes from nerve re-growth.

You can take your dog to a doggy spa that performs these massages or watch a video online about giving your dog a massage

The videos will probably give you a much-needed laugh, as well.

Assisted Walking

Assisted Walking for Dog Paralysis

Most dogs are paralyzed in their hind legs, making it really hard to walk and hold themselves up. 

Once they gain a little bit of strength, they might be able to hold themselves up, but walking is difficult.

To help with this, use a long towel or sheet and put it under your dog's belly. Hold the ends as you walk (think of a stork holding a baby).

This way, your dog can propel himself with the front legs, without allowing the back legs to wobble. 

This will help build strength in the front legs as well.

Paralysis In Dogs: Closing Thoughts

Paralysis in dogs is terrifying for both parties. 

It's important to know that you'll have to commit a lot of time, energy, and money.

Hopefully, you have dog insurance to help your furry family member get better.

If not, I would invest in it now before anything happens.

Depending on the cause of paralysis, it often means that it will take more than you realize. 

Being patient is going to help you get through, and it will help your dog get better.

While it's terrifying and hard to get through, the one thing that helped me the most was being thankful that my friend was still here. 

Knowing that I get to spend all this extra time with him made caring for his condition worth every minute.

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What to Do if Your Dog is Paralyzed

Latasha Doyle is a writer, wife, and a fur mom living outside of Denver, CO. She has always been an animal lover and adopted her dogs, Clyde and Webster, in 2008. Latasha and her husband also have four cats for a complete and friendly family.