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Doc Sara
Doc Sara, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 952
Experience:  I am a dog and cat veterinarian with a lifetime of experience in our family veterinary hospital.
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I had to board my 13 year old beagle at my vet because I

Customer Question

I had to board my 13 year old beagle at my vet because I could not administer the medicine for an eye infection by myself. It took three people to hold him. After a couple of days the vet called and asked if Jack (my dog) was having any trouble with his hind legs. I told him no and that he was running up and down stairs the day I brought him in. After 6 days his eye is better but he can barely walk. It's as though he can't control his hind legs. The vet does not know what is wrong. He gave me some rimadyl to give him. Earlier when I first took him in for his eye , he tested positive for lyme. I gave him doxycycline for three weeks. I was wondering if the lyme could be causing the lameness.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Doc Sara replied 1 year ago.

Hi there, I'm Dr. Sara. I'm a licensed veterinarian who works exclusively with dogs and cats. I'm so sorry to hear that Jack is having trouble with his back legs. Weakness in the rear legs isn't the type of symptom we expect to see with lyme disease, especially after having been treated with doxycycline for an appropriate amount of time. Typically lyme causes severe pain in a handful of affected joints, not weakness or loss of control of the legs like you are describing.

The most common reason a dog would experience weakness or loss of motor function in the back legs would be intervertebral disc disease. This is when one (or multiple) of the discs between the vertebrae become inflamed, swollen, rupture, or slip out of place. This places a varying amount of pressure on the spinal cord, causing it to malfunction. In milder cases, pain is the only symptom. One step more severe causes scuffing of the toes and delayed reflexes. One beyond that is muscle weakness in the legs (back legs only if the disc problem is behind the front legs but in front of the back legs), and the worst possible scenario is full paralysis and loss of pain sensation. In the more severe cases, the sooner they receive veterinary care, the more likely they will be to return to walking with normal function. If the vet suspects IVDD, and they are able to do advanced imaging, an MRI or CT scan are the methods of choice to diagnose these lesions, because the discs and spinal cord do not show up on X-rays. X-rays can be helpful for general information - especially looking for signs of bone fractures or destruction. Treatment for a disc that's compressing the spinal cord would be surgical removal of the disc material from the canal to decompress the cord.

Another potential cause would be FCE, which is a disease in which one of the blood vessels that supplies a portion of the spinal cord becomes blocked, causing a portion of the spinal cord to die and lose function. This again is a diagnosis via advanced imaging like a CT/MRI scan - it can be very difficult to tell from IVDD on a physical examination. Treatment for FCE is mostly supportive and nursing care while we wait to see if and how much function they will recover - it can take weeks to months to know how well they will recover.

Another potential that is less common would be a spinal infection or tumor - while these are far less common, they can cause the same symptoms. They can be diagnosed by advanced imaging, and blood work can also sometimes give us a clue about an infection being present. A spinal tap could also give info on the type of infection if one is present. Even more rare would be immune mediated (autoimmune) inflammatory spinal disease.

One of the main tenets of treatment of spinal disease is strict exercise restriction - keep him strictly confined to a bed or crate - do not let him drag his legs around or get too active, as this can further exacerbate his injury. It's a good idea to line his bed with water absorbent pads in case he urinates or defecates while he's laying in bed. The treatment plan varies depending on the severity of the signs - whether it be diagnostics like advanced imaging or attempted medical management with time, TLC, anti-inflammatories, and rest.

I hope that this information was helpful to you - please let me know what other questions I can handle.

~Dr. Sara


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Customer: replied 1 year ago.
From your response it seems like intervertebral disc disease (dragging his toes) He doesn't seem to be in any pain though. He falls over and gets right back up no problem. When I took him in to get his eye medicine it took two people to hold him still while a third put the medicine in. He squirms like hell. Would it have been possible that he could have hurt his back and what would you suggest to do.
Expert:  Doc Sara replied 1 year ago.

It's certainly possible that all the ruckus contributed to his injury, although I've seen many many dogs who just wake up one morning like this - no trauma that the owners can think of. If the signs are on the milder end of the spectrum, we usually treat with anti-inflammatories, rest, and time. If there is severe weakness, that's when we might consider advanced imaging to confirm the diagnosis and surgery if it's indicated to decompress the spinal cord. Obviously that's a LOT to ask an older dog to handle, so most people opt for medical treatment alone - and the majority of pets with milder symptoms do well. I would discuss what you're seeing with your vet to see if they feel it appropriate to prescribe something.

I hope that he's on the road to recovery soon :)

~Dr. Sara