1. Seek veterinary attention immediately.
  2. Remember that animals with paralysis may have a spinal cord injury and should be handled very gently.
  3. When transporting to the vet, place into a small carrier or transport on a flat board.
  4. Do not attempt to move the animal unnecessarily or roll it over as further injuries can occur.


Paralysis is defined as the loss of ability to move one or more parts of the body. It can occur due to loss of sensation, loss of motor function or severe weakness. This article is concerned with paralysis of the limbs. Other paralytic conditions such as tick paralysis or laryngeal paralysis (difficulty breathing), are covered in separate articles.


  • Inability to stand or walk, legs appearing to collapse
  • Uncoordinated gait progressing to inability to walk
  • Loss of sensation of one or more limbs (you can tell this by firmly squeezing the skin between the toes – most animals with sensation will withdraw their paw)
  • Inability to move
  • Other signs might include difficulty breathing or eating (for example, in cases of tick paralysis) or other signs of trauma (bleeding or wounds).


There are many possible causes of paralysis, but is usually associated with an injury of the spinal cord or nerves supplying the limb.

Spinal cord and nerve injury can be due to trauma, vascular disease such as a blood clot, some infectious and inflammatory diseases, degenerative diseases and some cancers. Severe weakness may mimic paralysis. This is most likely to occur in older animals with advanced arthritis.


Treatment depends on the underlying cause and the severity of paralysis.Your veterinarian will conduct a physical and neurological examination and get a thorough history from you to try to find out the underlying cause and localise the area of injury that is causing the clinical signs of paralysis in your pet. Depending on the cause and severity of paralysis, your vet may prescribe some medication, give advice on strict cage rest and monitoring at home or recommend further diagnostic imaging like an MRI and possible spinal or orthopaedic surgery.


Vernau KM, LeCouteur RA (2009) Seizures and Status Epilepticus. In: Small Animal Critical Care Medicine. Ed. Silverstein DC & Hopper K. Missouri, USA: Saunders Elsevier.