Coonhound paralysis, technically called idiopathic acute polyradiculoneuritis, is an uncommon but rapidly progressive condition that affects a dog’s spinal nerves and causes temporary but typically not permanent paralysis in all four legs. It probably is caused by a dog’s immune system attacking its own nerves, which is called an autoimmune reaction, but why this happens is not well-understood. Some authorities suggest that contact with raccoon saliva after a bite contributes to coonhound paralysis, but there is no reported or reliable reason for that connection. Signs develop rapidly and often start with hind end weakness. Dogs then may have a change in their voice, become stiff and lose their leg reflexes. Most continue to urinate and defecate normally and can still wag their tails. They chew and swallow as usual, and their appetite and thirst are unaffected. The paralysis generally worsens for several days after signs appear, and then stabilizes. Most dogs recover spontaneously, without treatment and without any permanent damage.
Coonhound paralysis is thought to involve an immune-mediated attack of antibodies directed against a dog’s own peripheral nerves. It may be precipitated by contact with the saliva of a raccoon following a bite incident, although there is no known scientific reason for this connection. There may be a viral or bacterial agent involved that has not yet been identified. The actual cause of this condition is not well-understood.Dogs who suffer a bout of idiopathic acute
Coonhound paralysis can occur in dogs of any breed, age or gender, but it seems to show up more frequently in outdoor dogs and hunting dogs after contact with a raccoon. Symptoms develop quickly and typically include many or most of the following:One of the most confusing aspects of this condition for owners is that most affected dogs continue to urinate and defecate normally and can still wag their tails. Most also can chew and
Routine blood and urine tests are typically inconclusive in cases of Coonhound paralysis, although they can reveal infectious causes of similar symptoms. More advanced testing can include assessment of serum immunoglobulins and of serum reaction to raccoon saliva, although these are also usually inconclusive as to the exact cause of the dog’s condition. Sampling and analysis of cerebrospinal fluid will often disclose an abnormally elevated protein level in dogs with Coonhound paralysis. Diagnostic tests of
Dogs suffering from severe signs of rapidly progressive paralysis should be hospitalized until the progressive stage of the disease is stabilized. Usually, this takes at least 4 days, and it can take longer. During inpatient treatment, veterinary professionals will monitor the patient closely and provide intensive supportive care, particularly for dogs with respiratory distress. Mechanical ventilation may be used if the dog’s breathing is severely compromised or if it is otherwise necessary to provide oxygen