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Can a Dog recover from Spinal Cord Injury? How long does it take?

Can A Dog Recover From Spinal Cord Injury? How Long Does It Take?

Spinal cord injury in dogs can be detected by dog owners when paralysis occurs & their pet can no longer walk. However, there are other symptoms of these injuries.

They include:

  • Observed pain in or dragging of hind legs.
  • An arched back or stiff head position, typified by a refusal to bend down to eat or drink from food and water bowls.
  • A reduction in physical activities
  • Observed muscle spasms in the back or neck and increased sensitivity to touch.
  • A loss of bowel or bladder control.

When treated early, the outcomes of spinal cord injury in dogs are usually positive. Treatment contributes to the recovery and restoration of the dog’s lifestyle.

Risk factors for Spinal cord injury in dogs


All dogs are at risk of developing spinal injuries. However, chondrodystrophic breeds with short limbs are more predisposed to spinal injuries. Examples of such dog breeds include Bassett Hounds, Dachshunds, Bulldogs, and Poodles, amongst others.

Non-chondrodystrophic breeds like Labrador retrievers and German shepherds also have spinal cord injuries.


Overweight dogs are at risk of developing spinal cord injuries.

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

IVDD in dogs commonly causes of spinal injury. IVDD happens when the discs cushioning the spinal cord lose the nucleus at their center because of over-compression or degeneration over time. IVVD causes spinal injury by compressing the spinal cord, which leads to nerve damage. If untreated, it can lead to paralysis.

Dog Spinal cord injury treatment

Spinal injury in dogs is treated using conservative therapy, spinal surgery, or stem cell treatment.

  • Conservative Therapy:

    This involves letting the dog rest, providing anti-inflammatory medication and muscle relaxants. Most dogs receiving this therapy regain functions like walking and control of their bowel and bladder movements. However, dogs receiving this therapy might still need surgery. It is advisable not to delay visiting the vet in favor of conservative treatment if your dog cannot walk.

  • Spinal Surgery:

    This involves decompressing the affected area. During the surgery, bone and disc materials wedged against the spinal cord are removed. Prompt surgeries in affected dogs improve the outcomes of surgery. Hence, dog owners are encouraged to go for this option as soon as they can. A big challenge of spinal surgeries is the lack of access to surgeons capable of performing the procedure. In addition, dog spinal surgery cost is high, and most owners cannot afford the surgery.

  • Stem Cell Treatment:

    This therapy offers an alternative solution that either resolves or reduces nerve damage and its effects. Stem cell therapy in dogs with spinal injury reduces edema, stops the release of inflammatory neurotransmitters, improves blood supply, and promotes nerve healing in addition to other benefits.

The time between the onset of spinal injury in dogs and treatment and the severity of spinal cord injury contributes to treatment outcomes. Time, rest, and physical rehabilitation all contribute to recovery, which may occur within a couple of days or months after. Ultimately, recovery time varies from dog to dog.

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