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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 27362
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience
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YouHe has no control of s legs, can't walk, and while laying

Customer Question

YouHe has no control of his legs, can't walk, and while laying there his muscles go stiff and his legs stick straight out. This started about 28 hrs ago. At first he would yelp when standing up on his back feet to greet you, then he started yelping every once in a while laying there. Then today we found him not being able to walk, it's like his legs are noondles, his feet just fold under and he falls over. He is very lethargic, but will eat canned food and drink if you bring it to him. Took him to the vet today and he said he thinks it's something he ate or got into and that we should just watch him and see if he gets worse. He feels strongly he will come out of this when whatever he got into passes through. Idk about this and I'm concerned about waking up in the morning with a dead dog. :-(
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 11 months ago.

This doesn't sound like a poisoning to me. Degenerative disk disease (a "slipped disk") should be the most important differential diagnosis in such a miniature dog. Early supportive evidence of a disk may include vocalizing (his "yelping" when standing and then also out of the blue) or when approached or lifted, having trouble jumping up or down and navigating steps, ataxia (“drunken sailor”...which has now progressed to paralysis), trembling/shaking (pain responses), a change in posture such as the neck held rigidly and head lower to the ground or a"hunch" in his back, and a change in behavior - a normally social dog becoming aloof or, conversely, a normally aloof dog becoming "clingy". Did Manny's vet carefully palpate (feel) about Manny's spine looking for areas of hyperpathia (increased sensitivity) suggestive of a disk? Conservative care involves the use of a nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug (NSAID) such as carprofen or meloxicam, a narcotic analgesic such as tramadol, and a skeletal muscle relaxant such as methocarbamol or diazepam. These drugs are usually administered for at least ten days. Most simple disks will remiss within a few weeks but paralysis has already arisen and Manny is now a surgical candidate for spinal cord decompression.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.

Customer: replied 11 months ago.
A lot of the symptoms you mentioned are ringing true. Yes, the vet did check his spine and found no sensitive areas. My wife and I have done the same thing, even all over his body trying to find a sore spots internally.
He is so young, this seems so soon for something like this, and it came on so sudden with no prior symptoms or injuries. Also he is very healthy and very strong. He is a large standard Chihuahua, stands about 18" and is very muscular. He's no pansy for sure lol.
The vet gave him a steroid shot and sub Q fluids.
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
Vet said he felt fairly good it wasn't a back injury because it was affecting all 4 legs. What do you think about this?
I must mention this was not his normal vet because she is on vacation. Idk if I should trust him, which is why I am talking to you.
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
He also had no fever @ the time of the vet visit. I have no way to check @ home, but he doesn't feel hot.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 11 months ago.

Thank you for the additional information. His yelping would constitute prior symptoms. While injury can certainly cause a traumatic disk prolapse, disk disease appearing at Manny's age should be considered genetically predestined. If a steroid is administered by injection it needs to be continued orally daily at an antiinflammatory dose if he's dealing with a disk. I hope his vet is correct about Manny "coming out of this" but I'm as concerned as you that that might not be the case.

When all 4 legs are involved, the incriminatory disk will be found in the cervical (neck) spinal segment. Alternatively, tick paralysis or encephalopathy (brain disorder) such as the steroid-responsive GME or arteritis has arisen. Those are thought to represent autoimmune disorders of the central nervous system and can mimic the signs of a disk.

Please continue our conversation if you wish.

Customer: replied 11 months ago.
I just checked his neck, rubbed very aggressively and rechecked all down his spine. No sore spots, no nothing, he acted like he liked it. The vet even mentioned he doesn't seem to be in much pain. He just seems very lethargic.
Why do you think his legs are going from stiff to limp (normal) and back to stiff while just laying there? Wouldn't there be pain involved when rubbing if it was a disk?
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 11 months ago.

I would expect pain, yes. Rather than a disk, perhaps one of the steroid-responsive encephalopathies for which miniature dogs are more at risk has arisen. The response to a steroid can be dramatic in that case but the steroid has to be maintained and most dogs will also require another immunosuppressive drug(s) on top of the steroid. This is a challenge to diagnose without cerebrospinal fluid analysis and MRI. His leg activity suggests waxing and waning inflammation in the central nervous system - in his brain and/or spinal cord.

Customer: replied 11 months ago.
I live in Colorado where pot is legal, the vet asked if he got into any, I told him no. Vet said he looks and acts high, but I don't have pot, so it can't be that. His eyes are dilated, he pants sometimes, and when he could walk, he hid under the table. To me, this suggests he's in pain... maybe the vet was high...
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 11 months ago., I've seen countless stoned dogs and they don't look like Manny. If the vet thought that Manny's mentation (mental status) was altered, that's another hint that an encephalopathy exists.

Customer: replied 11 months ago.
Do you suggest me taking him to his normal vet? I would like to show her your thoughts and see what she says. Or should I wait it out? Would the brain thing your talking about manifest itself so quickly? I know he had prior symptoms with the yelping, but that was inside the 28 hrs I am talking about. Prior to then, he had zero symptoms, was a happy go lucky dog...
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 11 months ago.

I would very much like his normal vet to give you a third opinion and you're welcome to share our conversation with that vet or anyone else you'd like to. You can't wait this out; Manny's morbidity (severity of symptoms) is extreme. Yes, central nervous system disorders can arise very quickly or, at least, what we call "acute on chronic" - it's been brewing but just recently became clinically apparent.

Customer: replied 11 months ago.
Sigh. I'm so sad. I know you hear this all the time, but he is like a child to me, the best dog I've ever owned. I'm beside myself.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 11 months ago.

I understand. Let's see if we can get to the bottom of this. Once clarified, more specific treatment might be available. I can't set a follow-up in this venue so please return to our conversation - even after rating - with an update at your convenience.

Customer: replied 11 months ago.
Thank you so much, and I will let you know how it turns out.
What do in the meantime about "bathroom" duties with a dog that can't walk?
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
what do I do in the meantime...
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 11 months ago.

Yes, husbandry can be quite a problem. Carrying him outside, propping him up with a towel underneath him and/or your hands, and even expressing his bladder manually might be necessary if he becomes incontinent. You'll need to be shown how that's done if he gets to that point.

Customer: replied 11 months ago.
Ok thanks
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 11 months ago.

You're welcome. I hope to hear from you soon.

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 11 months ago.

I'm just following up on our conversation about Manny. How is everything going?

Dr. Michael Salkin