Tumors , Trauma And Toxins Affecting the Spinal cord In Dogs

Tumors affecting the spinal cord

Different types of tumors can affect the spinal cord as well as the spinal column of dogs. Many of them are cancers that originate in the nerve tissue, including the nerve sheath and meninges, or in the bones and other connective tissue of the spinal column. Cancers that originate elsewhere in the body can metastasize to these tissues too.

Nephroblastoma is a tumor affecting dogs 5 months to 3 years of age. Commonly found in German Shepherds, this abnormal growth developing in the middle or lower back area may paralyze the hind limbs. It is a progressive condition that gets worse with the growth of the tumor. X-rays can locate the tumor, but other advanced tests such as CT scans, myelography or MRI scans are usually done to get a clearer picture. A biopsy can confirm the diagnosis. Surgical removal of the tumor may be done only if feasible.

Injury and Trauma

Fracture of the spinal column or dislocation of the vertebrae may result in spinal cord injuries. The initial damage to the spinal cord may occur from vehicle accidents, fights between animals, and wounds from gunshots etc. Secondary trauma develops soon after, due to inflammation and blood loss. Infections and decaying of the injured tissue, including the nerve sheaths, further complicate matters. The symptoms of the trauma to the spine may appear suddenly, and progress rapidly.

Trauma to the middle and lower back portions of the spinal cord may result in two types of paralysis. The limp form of paralysis affects the whole body, and may culminate in the death of the dog due to respiratory paralysis, but the rigid form has a more localized effect.

Dislocation and fracture of the vertebrae should be treated as soon as possible, as drug therapy initiated within a few hours of the injury can prevent complications. The location and extent of the fracture can be determined by x-rays. Some severe injuries may require surgical intervention, but if the dog displays only symptoms of mild neurologic trauma, cage rest for 4-6 weeks may help it recover. If the symptoms include loss of pain and sensation in the areas below the location of the injury, the chances of recovery are not very good.

Toxic Disorders or Spinal cord Disorders due to Poisoning

Delayed Organophosphate Intoxication In Dogs

When dogs accidentally ingest or come in contact with substances containing organophosphates, such as pesticides, herbicides or insecticides, it may cause poisoning. In some cases, the dog may immediately show symptoms of severe poisoning, but in mild poisoning, symptoms may be absent in the beginning, and only begin to appear 1-4 weeks after the dog is exposed to these harmful chemicals. This is termed delayed organophosphate intoxication. Progressively worsening paralysis of the hind limbs is one of the common symptoms of delayed toxicity. In some cases, it may affect all the limbs too. The veterinarian may try to diagnose the condition by analyzing the history of the dog with regard to exposure to the toxic chemicals. In most cases of delayed toxicity, the symptoms may resolve gradually, unless they are very severe.

Tetanus In Dogs

This disease condition results from a bacterial infection by the pathogen Clostridium tetani which produces a toxin in the body. The tetanus bacteria get introduced into the body through penetrating injuries, but dogs usually have a great amount of natural resistance. However, infections may develop occasionally, leading to poisoning. Symptoms such as stiffening of the muscles and rigidity of the body begin to appear 5-10 days after the dog has become infected. The dog may have difficulty swallowing or opening the mouth as the throat and jaw muscles become paralyzed and rigid. The eye lids protrude, and the facial muscles freeze. The dog may not be able to stand if severe muscle spasms are present.

Tetanus is treated by administering antibiotics to destroy the bacteria along with tetanus antitoxin to neutralize the toxin that is already in the body. The wound is thoroughly cleaned to remove dead and damaged tissues and bacterial debris. Severe infections are usually fatal, with the dog dying due to respiratory paralysis, but early intervention may save the dog’s life. Mild infections respond well to the treatment, resulting in complete recovery.

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