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Nervous System Disorders in Dogs: Spinal Problems in Dogs

Updated on October 10, 2013

Dogs do Some of the Darnedest Things!

Dogs get into a lot of things that can and do cause injury. Inspecting your dog for injuries daily can help keep him healthy and on the go for a lifetime!
Dogs get into a lot of things that can and do cause injury. Inspecting your dog for injuries daily can help keep him healthy and on the go for a lifetime! | Source

What Makes up the Dog Nervous System

The delicate design of the canine nervous system—brain, spinal cord, sensory and motor nerves that communicate with the rest of the dogs body—can encounter disease, disorders, and damage from a number of events and conditions. The canine armor we call the skeletal structure, is a dutiful element that protects the brain and spinal cord of the beast from damage. However, some incidents like vehicle impact, falls, bites, and other trauma inducing events can bring real traumatic injury. Since the brain and spinal cord are limited in just how much they can repair themselves, the results of disease or injury can be truly devastating on the dog, as well as the humans who love him.

Signs of Nervous System Disorders in Dogs

Nervous System Disorders can be minimal as well as wide reaching depending on the location and the cause of the problem. Here are 4 conditions that are among the most common surrounding the topic:

4 Common Nervous System Conditions in Dogs

  1. Seizures
  2. Weakness
  3. Paralysis
  4. Behavior issues

Today we will be taking a deeper look at some of the causes for these conditions and what you, a dog owner, should be on the constant lookout for.

Seizures in Dogs

When a temporary disturbance occurs in the electrical activity of the brain, convulsions or seizures are the result. A seizure can be caused by infectious diseases (like distemper and rabies); kidney and liver disease (poor filtration of the body); metabolic disorders (like blood sugar or calcium malfunctions); toxins (like anti-freeze or lead); brain trauma (a strike to the head); and brain tumors (boxers and Boston terriers most notably).

Canine Seizure's that last 5 minutes or more must be seen by a veterinarian immediately; you will need to take the dog in for a check up for seizures of shorter than 5 minutes, just not in an emergency status.

A Must Read for Dog Owners

Dog CPR and Heimlich Maneuver - An in-depth look at dog life saving techniques (videos included) safety issues and so much more. Which toys are best and safest for your pet? Learn all you can to keep your pet safe, a little information can save your dogs life in an emergency.

Radial Nerve Paralysis in Dogs

When a dog has been afflicted with Radial Nerve Paralysis, there is little doubt he has an injury. This disorder prevents the movement and support of the front legs. Bruising or fracture of the Humerus—upper bone in the leg—is generally the cause. Because he can't extend his elbow, the dog is unable to support his weight, or can only support a limited amount of weight on the leg, or he may simply drag the limb when walking. If the nerve has been severed during the injury, there is no likelihood the injury will heal, and the leg will require amputation. (The good news is, most dogs function really well on three legs.) In most cases therapy and steroids are administered to treat the condition. Only time can determine how functional the leg will end up. Keeping the paw wrapped in protective bandages is very important during this time, abrasion infections would only serve to compound the healing process.

You and Your Dog

Have you ever had a dog with a Spinal Disorder?

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Intervertebral Disc Protrusion


Intervertebral Disc Protrusion in Dogs

This condition causes pain to your dog's neck and back. Intervertebral Discs—a thick jelly-like substance found between the bones in the back and neck—are considered the shock absorbers for the spinal cord. When this substance gets squeezed or protrudes into the area where the spinal cord or spinal nerves reside, the dog will hesitate to move and may hold its head stiffly in one position. The dog might also avoid being touched or petted around the head and neck. The dog will often hold up one of its front legs, this is because the disc is pressing on the nerves to that leg, and lifting helps relieve the pressure. A dog with this disc protrusion in the back may present itself in a stiff arched-back stance, moving as little as possible, with a loss of bowel and urine control. If neglected or left untreated this can lead to weakness and then paralysis in the dog's hind quarters. Beagles, Pekingese, dachshunds, French bulldogs, miniature poodles, and cocker spaniels seem to be among those breeds that suffer from this disc protrusion more than others.

Ask your vet how to prevent this disorder in your dog, but jumping off of high furniture has been attributed as a cause for the disorder in the breeds listed above.

Regular Vet checks should be part of your dogs life!
Regular Vet checks should be part of your dogs life! | Source

Behavior Issues in Dogs

As in any species, when the pain of an injury is involved a personality or behavioral change can take place. This is no different in our canine companions. If you notice a change in temperament, activity, feeding or drinking, your pet may be encountering pain or nervous system problems. It is always suggested that an animal receive a well-check check up when this type of situation becomes apparent. This provides treatment for less apparent or hidden problems in your dog. It can also prevent an unsafe situation from happening to you or your family. We all can get a little grumpy when we don't feel well or are experiencing pain. Your dog is no different, except that he has some pretty sharp teeth for expressing these things. So, keep your relationship with your dog healthy and safe for both of you by being aware of unspoken, silent signs of health issues and nervous system conditions.

Your Dogs Nervous System

Always confer with your vet when injury or ailment attacks your dog. Only he/she knows your dog's personal health needs. Nervous system conditions are not to be neglected or written-off as something that will take care of themselves. These injuries require treatment and the knowledge of experts. As with people, dogs may encounter many obstacles during their lifetime, being there for them during crisis is part of the relationship; an unspoken oath even. Managing your skills of observation around your dog's health can be the key to a long and healthy life with your K9 best friend.

Comments for "Nervous System Problems in Dogs"

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  • profile image


    8 years ago

    I've never experienced one of my dogs having spinal disorder but this one's very informative. I guess I learned a lot.

  • vespawoolf profile image

    Vespa Woolf 

    8 years ago from Peru, South America

    We occasionally doggie sit for a cute little mixed breed who lives up the street. His father has severe paralysis in the hind quarters. After reading your hub, I wonder if it's disk protrusion. I just hope it's not a genetic defect that will be passed on to his offspring. This is a good reminder to protect our pets from needless accidents. Thanks so much!

  • profile image

    lena k 

    9 years ago

    Excellent Hub.

  • zi.ripon profile image


    9 years ago from Dhaka,Bangladesh

    This is an amazing hub loaded with vital information for dog owners! Well done! thanks for your value able info.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 

    9 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Congratulations on HOTD!! Very interesting. I really did not know how to answer your poll, so I didn't. I did not have a dog with such an ongoing problem, it was his end-of-life problem.

    The dog we had when my kids were growing up was a generic Shepherd cross. He was 12 years old when we had to have him put down, and it was devastating, because of the sudden onset of the issue.

    He'd never lost his puppy-like love of playing, chasing Frisbees, etc...and just that same day had been romping as usual. I left the house to take my youngest to her chorus practice, and when we returned home 3 hours later, he was lying on the couch, and had lost the use of his hind legs. We tried to help him through the night, but it was after vet hours, and the area did not have an all-night emergency vet.

    We took him to our own vet in the morning, and they said what most likely had happened was a stroke that went to the spine instead of the brain. Prognosis: extremely poor; ability to treat there: nil; we could have taken him 50 miles to the university vet center teaching hospital--at a cost of over $1200 just to walk throught the door--and still probably no good prognosis, given his age. So, we had to make the heart-breaking decision to put him down.

    It was brutally painful, as there had been no warning, no ability to see him failing and come to expect 'the end.'

  • neoankit profile image


    9 years ago from Pune

    I wish I had read this article before my dog passed away.He went through a lot and I was always clueless about what is happening( Even the doctor treating him turned about to be an newbee). I am sure your article is going to save a lot of lives.Keep up the good work.

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    Wonderful advice! I am surely going to keep my eye on my babies when it comes to their nervous systems. :) Thumbs up and shared! :)

  • coffeegginmyrice profile image

    Marites Mabugat-Simbajon 

    9 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

    Nice work you've done here, K9keystrokes! I have a dog of my own, medium size cockapoo and though he doesn't really socialize with other dogs in the park for playtime, he could hurt himself somewhere at home too. Great hub and CONGRATULATIONS!!! This hub deserve it! You deserve it!

    I love the pic of the dog, so curious. Is that your dog? What did he see in there? Sharing and voted up!

  • livingpah2004 profile image


    9 years ago from USA

    I have dog and read all the information you have provided. Useful and voted up.

    Congrats on HOTD!

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    Thanks J.S.Mathew! I love those cute little dachshund personalities so much! But I think you are wise to share the concerns for their spines with your folks, sir. Always better safe than sorry. You are such a nice guy for caring for Max and Murphy in this way. Nice to see you stopped by, always an honor.


  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    How sad...hopefully whoever took your dog also provided a save and loving home. It would all but kill me as well to have my k9 companion taken from me. My wish for you is a furry friend that shares the rest of your life snuggled up next to you.


  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    brianfprince~ It is amazing what a dog will get himself into! I am glad you like the picture. I appreciate your comments.


  • brianfprince profile image


    9 years ago from Arizona

    Very cool photography in this hub. I didn't know K9s could climb like that!

  • Hui (蕙) profile image

    Hui (蕙) 

    9 years ago

    I love dogs. I used to have one, so pretty and spoiled. Somebody stole her away, which almost killed me. This is pretty useful knowledge.

  • J.S.Matthew profile image

    JS Matthew 

    9 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

    Wow! I learned a lot here. My parents have both a cocker spaniel and a dachshund right now and I will share this article with them. Their names are Max and Murphy. Max is the Cocker. I was not aware of Nervous System Problems in these breeds and I am glad that I read this. Congratulations on this well-deserved Hub of the Day! Up and Shared!


  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    tillsontitan~ You make a great point when you say we forget that dogs can have nervous system problems just as we do. I adore the Min Pin breed, like compact little Dobermans but with a good natured personality that seem happy all of the time. How scary it must have been for you to have such a difficult affliction attack your little dog. SO HAPPY he is doing well! I sure appreciate you sharing your thoughts here!


  • Night Magic profile image

    Night Magic 

    9 years ago from Canada

    Great Hub. This is definitely going to help me.

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    T4an~ I love that you shared your story about your k9 friend! I am sorry to hear that he had to suffer. But, how wonderful that you found the right treatment for him! That is a true dog lover! I am honored that stopped by. Please give your big guy a smooch on the snout for me! Wishing you and your dog the best of health and happiness together.


  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    Mary~ I am so glad you have taken the pro-active measures to rearrange furniture for your little Schnauzer! You are one of my favorite pet owners without a doubt! I adored your hub about the mean old Bufo frog! Baby is a brave little gal! Thanks for sharing your story here, and YES, linking would be a wonderful addition to the topic. :)


  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    Linda~ Thank you so much ma'am! I was pretty surprised. It always makes me smile when I see helpful pet related hubs get a little extra attention...where would we be without our fuzzy friends!

    Big HubHugs~

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    howlermunkey~ You don't know just how right you are! He regularly chases squirrels on our back property. I don't think he would know what to do if happened to catch one! Probably lick it to death before anything else. He's a real sweetie! Thanks for stopping by!


  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    DrMark1961~ I sure appreciate that you offer your expertise on just how easy it can be to diagnose a brain tumor in our dog! So often we think these things are far too daunting to manage. An easy eye exam and you can have your answer, and thus, begin the healing process. Thanks for your comments!


  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    Wow! What a great surprise to find this morning! I am really thrilled that you all have shared your thoughts and appreciation for the information provided on spinal problems in our dogs. It is, as you know, a deeply rooted passion for me. I am grateful for all of your support!

    Thank you HP team for choosing this as HOTD!

    HubHugs to the room~

  • DrMark1961 profile image

    Dr Mark 

    9 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

    Thanks for including the link to the Do It Yourself Phyical Examination hub. A lot of these problems, like brain tumors, can be picked up by an exam of the eyes long before neurological symptoms strike. An abnormality detected early is much easier to treat. Thank you for making everyone aware!

  • howlermunkey profile image

    Jeff Boettner 

    9 years ago from Tampa, FL

    I'm betting there was a squirl in that tree in your header pic! Great hub, Im bookmarking for later use and I passed this on to a coworker as well who was just complaining that his dog's behavior had changed over the last few days.

  • mary615 profile image

    Mary Hyatt 

    9 years ago from Florida

    Congrats on HOTD. I always look forward to reading your Hubs because I am a devoted owner of a Miniature Schnauzer and I always learn from your articles. My dog, Baby, has Intervertebral Disc Disease, so this article is very close to home for me. I have moved the furniture so she can't jump down and done other things to keep her back from "going out" again. She takes a Glucosomine each day and I do think that has helped. I wrote a Hub about her condition. May I link this Hub into that one? Thanks in advance.

    I voted this Hub UP, etc. and will certainly share with my dog loving followers!

  • Sunshine625 profile image

    Linda Bilyeu 

    9 years ago from Orlando, FL

    Congrats on your HOTD India. This is an amazing hub loaded with vital information for dog owners! Well done!

  • T4an profile image


    9 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

    I loved this hub. Voted up. I wrote a hub on myleopathy in dogs. My dog was diagnosed last September. He could barely walk without falling. He is 115 lbs and had to be carried into the house. The vet said we would have 3 months at the most with him but I brought him to an animal chiropractor who saved his life. He is still with us today. Not 100% but I would say 85% for sure.

  • tillsontitan profile image

    Mary Craig 

    9 years ago from New York

    Very interesting and informative. So many people forget dogs can have nervous system or spinal problems just like people. Never thought about it much until my two year old Min Pin had infected spinal fluid. Won't bore you with the details but had I known more about dogs' possible problems I might have known what to do sooner. (He's doing well now.)

    So many pets out there and yet so much we don't know. Keep these good hubs coming!

    Voted up, useful and interesting.

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    I have a 3 yr old Rat Terrier... born with a very mild spina bifida, then scoliosis. Gem is very blessed, she has use of all four legs and continance control. Too many people are unaware that this can happen to dogs... the failure to thrive as a pup is probably why most don't make it to adult-hood.

    Gem was doing great until she was two when she stressed her tethered spinal cord and was fully paralyzed for about a week, and it took months to get her walking again. I would love to hear from someone else that has a dog similar to this... or willing to assist on ways to work on an issue with her front legs.

    You see her defect is just behind her front shoulder blades making her twist/curve to the right and if you know dogs legs you know that the left foot ends up dragging as she attempts to bring it forward. And because of the defect Gem has limited feeling in all four legs. When Gem walks or trots she prances! You can see her on YouTube (Rat Terrier, Spina bifida, Gem).

    This article was really informative, easy to read(no need to muscle through it). I also like that it increases awareness to the many joys and challenges of pet ownership.

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    Cardisa~ Thank you so much for such high praise, coming from you that holds weight! A dogs nervous system is just as vulnerable as our own, and more so in some case where dogs are providing a service to humans. Dogs who search rubble for survivors seem to suffer this type of damage more so than others. I am grateful that you shared your thoughts with me today, thank you!



  • Cardisa profile image

    Carolee Samuda 

    9 years ago from Jamaica

    K9, it is rare that I read hub that I think is perfect! It reminds me of a university lecture, by a good professor. I had no idea that dogs could suffer like that. Thanks!

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    sandy1973mypetdog~ Such grand and sound advice you offer regarding getting a dog. Knowing the particular nature of a breed can tell you much about how it will/can fit into your family scenario. Each dog has been bred for centuries to do a single task very well; like retrieving, going to ground, flush, herd, fight, guard, swim and the likes. Along with these masterfully performed techniques some quirky behaviors can accompany the breeds behavior. A little research about the breed of interest can save you from a few dog surprises down the doggy-treat-lined road! So thankful for your input around the topic. also, so sorry you lost of your k9 friend due to a spinal problem. These things are never easy.

    Wishing you a happy long dog-snuggled life with your Lab!



  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    Simone~ I understand that these things are not the fun part of pet ownership, but they are the things we should have an idea about when keeping active dogs. As you note, acting quickly with these conditions is very important. Thank you for stopping by and commenting, I appreciate the support!



  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    vacalcoach~ I will have to do some research, but I am not sure if an effective natural approach for seizure control is available. The phenobarbital has a good record with dogs though, and you are certainly doing your Clancy a proper service by administering the med. He is fortunate to have a loving human like you!

    Thank you for sharing your story!



  • sandy1973mypetdog profile image


    9 years ago from the south

    This was a very interesting hub. I have one dog now that has had one seizure, a labrador, and one other dog which passed away a few years ago who had a disc protrusion issue which left her paralyzed in her back legs. The vet told us in her case there was nothing we could have done for her and she later passed away. One thing I will strongly suggest to those looking at purchasing a dog is to look into their history, find out what health problems they may experience and just gain extensive knowledge of the breed or even with hybrid breeds. Thanks again for this hub, it was very beneficial.

  • Simone Smith profile image

    Simone Haruko Smith 

    9 years ago from San Francisco

    Yikes, all of these are scary potentialities! That said, being informed about them AHEAD of time is good- it is far better to be prepared to deal with these nervous system issues ahead of time than to be caught by them unawares and be unable to act quickly and logically!

  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 

    9 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

    An excellent and very informative hub. Now I want to read more of your articles on dogs. My "Clancey" is a Shih Tzu and has had seizures for years. The vet put him on phenylbarbitol (sp), and it has helped very much. I prefer natural remedies but the "phenyl" is the only things that works. Thank God for you, your knowledge and willingness to share.



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