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New Hope for Treating Paralysis in Dogs

Posted January 15, 2015 in A Vet's Life

Paralyzed Dog on beach

There are many causes of paraplegia or hind end paralysis in dogs. Far and away, the most common cause is intervertebral disc disease (aka, slipped disc or herniated disc). Dachshunds are the “poster dogs” for this disease. Surgery to remove the disc material compressing the spinal cord can prevent paralysis in many cases. For some dogs though, surgery is ineffective. Additionally, many people simply cannot afford this expensive treatment option.

A new study on paralysis in dogs provides new hope
A recent study, performed at North Carolina State University, offers some new hope for dogs with paraplegia. The researchers at NC State studied 19 dogs, all of whom had paraplegia caused either by disc disease or trauma. All of the dogs had been chronically affected and were only chosen for the study if it was believed that they had maxed out on their neurological improvement.

Study design: paralysis in dogs
All of the dogs in the study were treated over time with three different things:

  1. 4-Aminopyridine (4-AP): This drug affects the flow of potassium into nerve cells called axons. In some cases, this restores nerve conduction within damaged axons. This drug is currently used as a treatment for people with multiple sclerosis. Higher dosages of 4-AP have been associated with adverse side effects in dogs including elevated temperature, anxiety, and seizures.
  2. T-butyl carbamate (t-butyl): This is a derivative of 4-AP, and was developed with hopes of improved effectiveness and reduced toxicity.
  3. Placebo: This was used for purposes of creating a controlled study in which results can be objectively compared.

Throughout the testing period, those observing the dogs were “blinded” as to which one of the three things each dog was receiving. During weeks one and two, all dogs received the placebo. Throughout weeks three and four, half of the dogs were treated with 4-AP and half with t-butyl. The dogs received nothing during weeks five and six so as to allow the drug to wash out of their system. They then received the drug they were not yet exposed to during weeks seven and eight. All dogs again received the placebo during the final two weeks.
Results of paralysis in dogs study
13 of the 19 dogs completed the protocol. The researchers found that there was little difference in effectiveness between the two drugs. Both produced improvement in some dogs’ ability to step compared to the

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Nancy has more than 30 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified veterinary specialist in internal medicine as well as a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2014.

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