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Denver ER Doc
Denver ER Doc, Veterinarian
Category: Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 1495
Experience:  Small Animal Medicine and Surgery Internship, Veterinary Acupuncture trained, Wildlife and Exotics
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I have a [email protected] 4 years old, boxer/great dane mix. I just went

Customer Question

I have a [email protected] 4 years old, boxer/great dane mix. I just went to check on the animals before I went to bed and he couldn't get up to greet me. I thought maybe one of his legs had fallen asleep but after several minutes he still couldn't seem to use either leg. He pushed himself up into a sitting position with his weight on his front legs and when I stood next to him he leaned back with all of his body weight against me. His breathing is shallow and his heart seems to be racing. Any ideas? Is there anything I can do? I put a towel under his pelvic area and held him up so he could get up the stairs and inside. He was fine earlier today. Help?
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Veterinary
Expert:  Denver ER Doc replied 7 years ago.
Hi there, sorry to hear your pup is having trouble.

If it seems to be a problem with both legs, I would be concerned about a back injury. If it is just one leg, this may be a knee or hip injury to one side, but it sounds form your description like he cannot move either hindlimb. If this is the case, he needs to be evaluated to find out the extent of neurologic dysfunction and whether this is a case that can be managed with medication and rest or whether it constitutes a surgical emergency.

When you sling-walked him inside, did he appear to be able to move the back legs or did they just drag behind him?

Regardless, the rapid heartbeat and shallow breathing are indicative of pain, which will need to be addressed as soon as possible for his comfort and yours. He should be seen at an emergency facility as soon as you can.

Hope that helps! Please let me know if you have any other questions for me.

Dr. Paul
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
When I sling-walked him inside he just dragged both legs behind him and I had to help him move them so he could sit down. He has readjusted himself and is laying on his right side now but still looks to be in the same condition. He bristles his back when I touch it lightly. He is trembling but isn't showing any indication that he is in pain. Aside from his legs, he is not moving his tail at all. We do live in the country, is there any other possible explanation such as a bite from a snake or other animal that would cause a reaction like this?
Expert:  Denver ER Doc replied 7 years ago.
Dragging both legs behind him indicates paralysis. The bristling of the back muscles on light touch is called hyperaesthesia, and this is common in an acutely painful neurologic condition. I suspect he has a herniated or ruptured disc in his back that is pushing on the spinal cord and causing him to not be able to move his legs and tail. The trembling can indicate either neurologic dysfunction or pain, or more likely, both. Slipped discs are very painful conditions, but some of it may be masked by lost neurologic function.

The only way a bite would cause a condition like this would be if (1) the bite occurred over the spine, which you should be able to see, or (2) if this was an ascending paralysis from an attached tick, however this usually occurs gradually over a few days, not as an acute condition such as this. This condition is more likely traumatic. Regardless, all three of these situations require immediate therapy to prevent worsening of the neurologic disease.

Depending on severity, herniated discs can either be managed medically with pain medications and rest or need immediate surgery if all motor function and some pain response have been lost. The longer this assessment is delayed, the poorer the prognosis, so if he is dragging his back legs and unable to support any weight, I cannot stress enough how much he needs to be seen by a veterinarian.

Hope that helps!

Dr. Paul
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
My husband is getting home as soon as he can. In the meantime, can I give him some asprin or Tylenol or is there anything I can do to help or make him more comfortable. For such a big dog he sure seems small right now.
Expert:  Denver ER Doc replied 7 years ago.
Giving him any sort of over-the-counter pain medication can interfere with what he may need once he is assessed by a veterinarian, so it should only be done if absolutely necessary. Aspirin, tylenol, and other non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs can cause a serious reaction with any steroid injection that the veterinarian may want to give to help bring down spinal cord inflammation and offer the best chance for medical recovery. For that reason and the fact that the veterinarian will have similar versions of non-steroidal antiinflammatories that are safer for dogs, we usually don't recommend it.
Expert:  Denver ER Doc replied 7 years ago.
Were you able to get to the veterinarian last night to have your dog seen? How is he doing?