Prognosis- walking or spinal walking?


Neuro Corner Answers

Dr. Andrew Isaacs
DVM Diplomate ACVIM (Neurology)
Dogwood Veterinary Referral Center

Primary interests include intervertebral disc disease, seizure management, luxations/fractures of the spine, and surgery for brain tumors



Ann writes: Our Buster recently went to the neurologist for his follow up visit 6 weeks after surgery for 2 herniated disks. The Dr. said he had no DPP and we should get him a cart as Buster would never walk again. She didn’t seem to give any value to the improvement Buster has achieved since he came home. He’s gone from total paralysis of his hind legs to being able to move both legs, his tail also moves and he pulls himself up to stand on all 4 legs for short periods.

The 2 Drs. at our local vet clinic were surprised by the diagnosis. They weren’t eager to contradict the neurologist or to get our hopes up, but they say it can take months to recover from major surgery.

Because Buster is improving, we are continuing PT, water therapy and acupuncture. We did get Buster a cart which we were told was for rehab as well as mobility. We’re trying to be realistic about our dog’s progress, but the conflict between what we’ve been told and what we see happening with him is confusing.

In your experience, do you find that most dogs with no DPP 6 weeks after surgery never walk again?


Hi Ann. So sorry to hear about Buster.

In my experience, dogs that do not regain deep pain perception (sensation) after 6 weeks rarely regain it. Notice, I didn’t say never! These dogs often times will regain motor function and appear to “walk” once they get their legs under them. When this occurs we call it SPINAL WALKING. The “walking” is actually reflexes in the rear limbs being stimulated, which gives the appearance that the dog is walking. These are involuntary movements and do not require the input from the brain to occur. If you watch carefully, the front legs and back legs are not in sync with each other. We do see paralyzed dachshunds that never regain deep pain perception but spinal walk several weeks or months after surgery. These dogs live a great life!

My advice… continue the physical therapy and water therapy. It sounds like Buster is regaining motor function in his rear legs and may be starting to spinal walk. He may surprise everyone and spinal “walk.”

There is a video on Dodgerslist showing spinal walking. Be sure to check it out:

Best regards and thanks for the question.


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