Frequently Asked Questions

Dog Research Trials

What criteria must my dog meet in order to be entered into a study?

1) Hind limb paralysis must be a result of intervertebral disc herniation. The duration of paralysis must be two days or less. The efficacy of PEG is greatest in the very early period following spinal cord injury so it is imperative that dogs be sent to Purdue VTH as soon as possible after the onset of paraplegia.

2) Hind limb deep pain response must be negative.

3) Body weight should not exceed 40 lbs.

4) Animals must be between 2 and 8 years of age and in good health other than problems associated with paraplegia.

5) Decompression of spinal cord (surgery) must be performed at Purdue University.

6) Dog owner should live within a proximity to Purdue University that facilitates the ability to bring the dog to the university within the first two days of the paralysis and to bring the dog back for follow-up visits. It is preferable that the client resides in the states of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio or Kentucky.

My dog recently became paralyzed. How do I care for my dog after surgery?

Normally, dogs that suffer these types of injuries adjust to the fact that they do not have use of their rear legs. Dog owners who reestablish old routines, or modify old routines, report having an easier time dealing with their dogs. Sometimes this can be difficult. For instance, owners have reported that they had to move their dog's bed to a different area. This is upsetting to the dog at first, but they eventually adjust and things settle down.

Your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon will probably recommend that you confine your dog to a kennel just after the injury and thereafter when you are not at home. It is very important that the dog does not move around too much and exacerbate the injury. In addition, these dogs can sustain additional injury by trying to ascend or descend stairs and/or furniture.

If your dog has bladder control and function, then you are already ahead of the game. Some dogs lose the ability to urinate and some dogs lose both the ability to urinate and cannot hold their urine. For the dogs that cannot hold their urine, doggy diapers are one solution. The K-9 Cart Company offers doggy diapers for both male and female dogs. For dogs that cannot urinate on their own, the veterinarian or a veterinary technician will explain how to express the dog's urine from the bladder. Normally, this needs to be done 3-4 times per day. In either case, it is important to monitor the urine for discoloration, or foul smell; to watch for urine scald; and to keep the bedding and the dog clean and free of urine and feces.

Another obstacle paraplegic dogs face is the occurrence of bed sores. When a dog does not or cannot move pressure sores can develop. In addition, dogs that pull themselves along across the floor can develop abrasions. These sores need to be treated immediately.

In addition, we request that all dog owners in our study perform physical rehabilitation with their dogs. This consists of moving each rear leg through the full range of motion three to four times per day for 5 minutes per leg. Another good form of therapy is hydrotherapy. With hydrotherapy, which can be accomplished in a bathtub with a small dog, the dog is allowed to "swim" with your constant assistance. Both of these therapies help to improve circulation and help keep joints limber.

All of the dogs in our studies receive dog carts from K-9 Cart Company. Their web address is: Dog carts, when used properly, can greatly improve the quality of life for the dog. When using a dog cart, always keep your dog on a leash.

For more information about caring for your paralyzed dog, click here: (link to brochure "Physiotherapy")

What are the chances that my paralyzed dog will recover from an injury due to a disc herniation?

There are many factors that affect the outcome of your dog's injury. The two most important factors are the severity and duration of the injury. If the injury is severe enough to warrant surgery, the veterinary surgeon may be able to give you an indication about the severity of the injury. In most cases, a "dye" will be injected adjacent to the spinal cord. This procedure, called a myelogram, will allow the surgeon to "view" the site of the injury and sometimes the extent of the injury. When decompressive surgery (laminectomy or hemilaminectomy) is performed, a small section of vertebral bone is removed. In some instances, a surgeon will also "peel" back the covering or dura of the spinal cord. These combined procedures provide a small "window" in which to view the spinal cord. In some cases, a surgeon can make an approximation of the damage sustained to the spinal cord.

Another indicator of the severity of the injury is the ability for the dog to appreciate pain. In the worst cases, dogs with Intervertebral Disc Herniations have no deep pain perception. That means that when the veterinarian pinches the toe joint with forceps (a instrument that looks like small needle-nosed pliers), the dog has no detectable facial reaction (no whining, biting, etc.). In these cases, the innermost part of the spinal cord has been damaged. Normally, the chance of recovery from this type of injury is greatly reduced.

The second important factor in regards to recovery is the duration of the injury. The most favorable outcomes for recovery of function occur when surgery is performed within 48 hours of the injury. As the time between the injury and surgery decreases, the favorability of the outcome increases. Generally, the chance of recovery is higher if the dog undergoes surgery within the first 12 hours after onset of paralysis and decreases as time goes by.

These factors, combined with the pet's neurologic status are generally used by your veterinary surgeon to determine your dog's prognosis following an injury.

For more information about Intervertebral Disc Disease.

My dog is dragging his/her back legs, what should I do?

Get your dog to your veterinarian immediately!!! At that point, your veterinarian can assess your dog's condition and provide treatment or give you a referral to a clinic that specializes in treatment of this type of problem or to a veterinary teaching hospital in your area. The sooner the dog receives treatment, the better the outcome.

What are some of the signs preceding complete paralysis?

Dog owners have reported that their dogs were acting "strange" prior to paralysis. For example, your dog might refuse to get up. Or, your dog might seem to be in pain and/or guarding the injured area. In addition, you might notice that your dog is crossing his or her legs or walking like a drunken sailor. If you notice any of these types of behaviors, notify your veterinarian immediately!

Which breeds are most likely to be affected with Intervertebral Disc Disease?

By far the most commonly affected dog is the dachshund. However, the Shih Tzu, Pekingese, Lhasa Apso, Welsh Corgi, and the Beagle are also breeds that are commonly affected. This in no way implies that your dog will be affected; but it is a good idea to have an understanding of the disease in case your dog is affected.

Is there anyone in my area who is conducting the same type of research as the Center for Paralysis Research?

To our knowledge, there is no other facility in the United States that is conducting the type of research that benefits dogs with Intervertebral Disc Herniations. However, there are many wonderful veterinarians, specialty clinics, and teaching hospitals that can offer you the best standard care available.

My pet is not a dog. Is there a clinical trial available for my pet?

Currently, the Center for Paralysis Research is only conducting clinical trials with dogs.













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