Paw dragging in dogs what is behind it dog blog

It started insidiously. At some point, the owner of German Shepherd Joe noticed that her dog was no longer using his hind legs to their full potential. Every now and then he would let one paw drag across the floor, sometimes even shuffling with both of them.

This paw dragging can be observed in some older dogs. Often the owner ames that the dog has become more comfortable and inflexible in old age and simply does not want to lift the legs properly. But unfortunately, paw dragging is usually not a form of comfort, but a sign of musculoskeletal disease and an indication of neurological damage.

The cause is often a neurological disease that damages the bone marrow. Paw dragging is for example a symptom of a herniated disc, Wobbler syndrome or Cauda Equina Syndrome (CECS). But also degenerative changes of the spine, spondylosis, can cause it. Degenerative myelopathy may also be associated with paw dragging.

Degenerative Myelopathy

In degenerative myelopathy, the myelin, a protective layer of the nerves, recedes. The nerve tracts in the thoracic and lumbar spine lose their function, which is associated with increasingly severe movement disorders and restrictions, the ataxias. The dogs walk unsteadily or with wide legs, cannot sit up straight and are not in control of their movements. In the progressive stage it comes to paralysis. Especially the hindquarters are affected – often shepherd dogs suffer from this chronic disease. Mostly older dogs are affected. If young animals fall ill, this is due to a genetic defect or an infection. The disease is not curable – but physiotherapy can help to counteract the muscle atrophy. It develops as the dog's mobility becomes more and more limited.

Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES)

The Cauda Equina Syndrome describes as an umbrella term diseases at the transition of the lumbar vertebrae to the sacrum, in which it also comes to a damage of the nerves. The nerves, which pass from the tail into the spinal column, are squeezed by degenerative change of the spinal column like an arthrosis, swell and inflame themselves. These nerves supply muscles in the hind legs and tail, among others. As a result, neurological deficits and movement disorders also occur in this disease. The symptoms often appear only in slightly older dogs and in larger breeds. They develop over weeks and months.

Dogs with CES have pain when standing up, don't like to jump and don't want to be touched on the back anymore. The hind legs are weak, they show lameness or even paralysis and are no longer in control of their movements. Grinding paws and run down claws as well as a powerless hanging tail are further symptoms.

Wobbler syndrome

Wobbler syndrome describes several different conditions caused by damage to the spinal nerves in the cervical spine.

Affected are often large breeds with long, powerful necks like the Doberman, the Great Dane, Dalmatian or Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

The syndrome can be triggered by various conditions such as a herniated disc. As a result, the spinal cord is crushed in the cervical vertebrae. Dogs with long necks are more at risk because the shape of their vertebrae leads to instability, which stresses the intervertebral discs. Dogs develop through this damage to the spinal cord. The nerve striking coordination disorders. The hind legs in particular take larger, higher and outward reaching steps, while the front legs prance. So dogs develop two different gait patterns. Various surgical methods and therapies can provide relief – but the chances of cure always depend on the causes of the wobbler syndrome.

So, if a dog shows paw pads, it is important to ask a veterinarian for advice and find the cause. It is also helpful to take a look at the claws: Dogs that drag their paws usually sharpen their claws as well. In addition to veterinary treatment and physiotherapy, an orthopedic dog bed or a sensibly upholstered dog mat can enable the quadruped to lie and rest more comfortably.

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