Nerve healing after a disc episode | Dodgerslist, the premier website for Dog Back Disease (IVDD)


Nerve healing

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Nerve healing after a disc episode

Regaining neurological function after a disc episode is individual.
Each injury is different and each dog’s ability to heal is different. Regaining neurological function has no time limit.  If a perception of deep pain sensation (DPS) is present, even in paralyzed legs, there is a good chance your dog may be able to walk again. For those dogs who have lost DPS, do know nerve regeneration can take place and that function may return.

Deep Pain Sensation (DPS)

Once DPS is regained, that bodes well for more self healing of nerves.

Many thousands of dogs on Dodgerslist have regained functions in varied time. Some in as little as 2 weeks, others 11 months, and still others 3 years later. IVDD is a disease of patience to allow the body to heal on its own terms. Acupuncture and Laser Therapy stimulate the cell’s metabolism that leads to the body’s natural repair abilities.

Retraining muscles

Once nerves have repaired then muscles will also have to be retrained to relearn proper placement of the paws. Some muscles will need to regain strength for walking. Consider learning to walk again as it would be for a stroke victim or a baby learning to walk. At first, the steps will be weak and a bit unstable. Relearning to walk takes coordination, building up strength, and lots of patience.

No timetable for nerve healing

There is no timetable anyone can give you when to expect nerve repair. It can take weeks to more like a year or even longer. However, it is known that neurological function usually returns in the reverse order of the nerve damage. The first big sign you want to look for is that wonderful tail wag!

True success

True success with IVDD is measured by the most important goal of returning your dog to a pain free, happy and full-of-love quality of life after surgery or conservative treatment. Should paralysis occur, please know that dogs do not view the lack of ability to walk as a minus as humans do. Dogs adjust to what is and then get on with the business of fully enjoying all that life has to offer until nerves repair! Learn how to re-think things!
  • There is no way to predict when function will return or how much function will be recovered. They may never return to normal function, however they can rejoin family events and activities according to their functional capacity. Even permanently paralyzed dogs can have an excellent quality of life and maintain their mobility in a cart——Dr. Kathleen E. Collins, DVM, ortho surgeon (ACVS)

  • I typically give a month before I make any judgement on whether or not deep pain will come back. Keep giving time and be positive…I do have some patients that take longer.  ——Dr. Michael A. Wong, DVM, ACVIM (Neurology)

  • Nerve regeneration depends upon the degree of injury to the nerves. Typically, at 6 months most of the healing has plateaued, but some cases take up to several years. ——Dr. Isaacs, DVM, ACVIM (Neurology) at the Dodgerslist Neuro Corner.

  • The time taken from injury to return of independent function may be up to 3 months although improvement will still continue six months after surgery. In this latter stage the rate of improvement is slower and the process is more subtle, but it will happen.  ——Dr. Andy Torrington, BVMS , CertSAO MRCVS 
  1. Deep Pain Sensation (DPS) is the first neuro function to return. DPS is the critical indicator for nerves to be able to self heal after surgery or with conservative treatment. Trust only the word of a neuro (ACVIM) or ortho (ACVS) surgeon about this very tricky to correctly identify neuro function.
  2. Tail wagging with joy at seeing you or getting a treat or meal.
  3. Bladder control verified with the “sniff and pee” test. (Take your dog out to an old pee spot in the grass. Let him sniff and then observe for a release of urine.)
  4. Leg Movement, and then ability to move up into a stand by themselves, and then wobbly walking.
  5. Being able to walk with more steadiness and properly place the feet.
  6. Ability to walk unassisted and perhaps even run.

Illustrated spinal cord damage

Can’t tuck legs under the body, back legs are paralyzed.

Loss of bladder control with the need to manually express the bladder

Wobbly, crossing, weak legs

Tail hangs limp, can’t wag when hearing happy talk.

Paw knuckles under. Slow to or can’t right paw at all

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