Help my dog cannot stand up!Corey Farrugia
You wake up in the morning to the usual routine. Tethering on the brink of consciousness for thirty minutes, you constantly choose to procrastinate the inevitable task to face your day by smashing the snooze button on your bedside alarm clock three times in a row. Finally you get out of bed. Something is off but you can’t really put your finger on it. Like a robot you shower, brush your teeth, prepare breakfast, put some dog kibble in your dog’s bowl … wait! Where’s your dog? Why didn’t it come to pester you to get out of bed when the alarm went off? You look for your dog and you find it looking up at you, wide awake in its bed with a bewildered expression on its face. For some reason your dog can’t standing up. After calming down from a very understandable freak out, you finally calm down. Your dog needs help, and your drama is not going to make the situation any better. What could have happened? There are many reasons why a dog could suddenly be unable to stand up and walk.
What could have happened?
Physical injury is a very common reason. Your dog might have gotten injured while not under your supervision. It might also have injured itself during particularly rigorous activity and did not show immediately due to the adrenaline running through its system during this activity. Physical injury can occur to either the dog’s skeletal system or muscular system. Both kinds of injuries can be very painful, and can make the dog react in unpredictable ways if handled roughly. If the dog must be moved, and physical trauma is suspected, it is best to handle the dog gently as the dog might react aggressively to sudden painful stimuli. Physical injury to the spine can lead to paralysis of part or whole of the dog’s body.
Another reason for immobility might be due to malnutrition. Even though it is highly improbable that dog owners reading this article are the kind to subject their dogs to undernourishment, it is worth mentioning that some owners might be too busy or distracted by other pressing things, to notice that their dog’s digestive system is not in tip top shape, and that despite the fact that the dogs are being fed a balanced diet, these dogs are still not reaping the full benefit of their carefully balanced diets. On the opposite end of the spectrum are those dog owners that over feed their dogs. This results in excessive weight gain that might lead to the dog feeling uncomfortable or incapable of moving about and might also result in back injuries. Excessive weight will also increase the occurrence of other bone and muscle injuries.
Illnesses are also important to consider when investigating the reason as to why your dog suddenly can’t stand on its feet. Systemic illnesses can affect the different systems in the dog’s body which can in turn effect motility. One such system is the nervous system. The central nervous system can be affected by toxins or disease. Neurotoxins can be found in plants that the dog might nibble on while unsupervised but can also be introduced in the dog’s circulatory system through sting or bite from a poisonous animal. Other neurological signs can surface due to underlying problems with the liver and kidneys. Both organs are involved in the elimination of nitrogen containing waste products from the body. Other mechanical reasons for immobility can also be due to pressure on the spinal cord due to tumours or inflammation caused by infection of the nervous tissues. Due to the ear’s role in helping the animal achieve balance, ear infections can also result in the dog’s inability to keep its balance while standing up and moving about.
How do I go about it?
It’s very understandable that owners are afraid to take matters in your own hands in fear of making matters worse. Proceeding with caution in such cases is a must. However, there are a number of things that one can do to assess the situation and see what shape the dog is in. It is best to start assessing the situation by observing the dog’s state of mind. If your dog looks disoriented and confused, one can be fairly sure that the problem is one that has to do with the dog’s neurological system. One must also observe whether the dog lost motility in all or only parts of its body. Take your dog to your trusted veterinarian if any of the above symptoms can be observed. One should not attempt to solve any of these problems on their own. One way to assess sensation in an immobile dog is by softly pinching and touching the dog along its spine and between its toes and watching for nervous reflexes or any signs of discomfort or pain. These examination methods can give someone a fair idea about the grievousness of the situation at hand, and help with decisions such as whether one should, for example, attempt moving the dog into the car to be taken to the vet on their own or with someone’s help.
Examining a dog’s paws is also very useful; the dog might not be walking due to some injury to its paw pads. It is common for dogs to burn their feet on hot asphalt in hot countries, or get frostbite after a long walk on frozen ground. Paws can also get bloody after a very vigorous play date on hard ground. Comparing the different paw temperatures by hand can also be a good examination method. One should be on the lookout for any paws that feel colder than the rest. Nervous conditions can lead to reduced circulation, weakness and an inability for the dog to move its legs. However, these can also be a sign of thrombosis.
These preliminary examinations should never replace the actual veterinary examination. A dog displaying any of the above signs should always be examined by a trained veterinarian. Make sure to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself against dog bites while doing any of the above procedures. Dogs might react aggressively to any painful stimuli caused by any of the above examination methods.