Ailments of the nervous system

Continued from last week


Usually parlayses are associated with problems of the spinal cord. The spinal cord is that thick bundle of nerve tissue which in vertebrates (animals with backbones) extends longitudinally from the brain to the tail. This bundle of nerves (like biological electric wires) gives off, at intervals, nerve groups to various parts of the trunk and limbs. It serves therefore as a pathway for nervous impulses to and from the brain and the extremities (legs, tail).

So, if these nerves are damaged (for whatever reason) then the impulses going to and from the limbs are compromised, and the animal would exhibit an inability to move around comfortably. The damage to the nerves going to the legs could be due to congenital (birth) defects, degenerative and/ or infectious diseases, inflammatory processes, growths (neoplasias) in the nerves or the growth pressing on the nerves, nutritional problems, traumas (hits), toxic (poison) conditions, and vascular (blood vessel) damage.

These are conditions which result in weakness of the legs (usually the hind legs) causing even total immobility, yet the dog can respond to a pin prick, say. If you pinch the dog’s foot, it withdraws the leg. That tells us that the cause of the problem is attacking the motor nerves (the ones that deal with the actual action), yet leaving the sensory nerves intact. Such paralyses take some time (days) to develop fully; and even when the dog is completely immobile, it remains quite alert mentally.

I had mentioned above that there are birth defects that result in the animal being paralysed. Sometimes these birth defects do not reveal themselves until much later in life. There is an ailment called the ‘Wobbler‘ Syndrome that I used to encounter a lot during my practising days in Europe among Great Danes and Dobermans (and other large breeds like the Saint Bernard). The wise scientists associated this malady with a malformation of the neck bones (cervical vertebrae), which causes a compression of the spinal cord. Affected dogs keep their necks stretched out downwards, and the dogs walk with a wobbly gait.
Of course, any compression of the spinal cord, by any of the bones of the spinal column would result in a paralysis, the degree of which would depend on how much of the nerves are being affected/damaged.

I should here mention also the ‘Swimmer‘ Syndrome or ‘Flat Puppy‘ Syndrome. This is not really a paralysis, but it does affect the puppy’s mobility from day one. The legs (all four usually, but sometimes, seldomly, only the hind legs or the front legs) project outwards from the dog instead of below him. The puppy then moves around like a turtle; the chest is flat (because the puppy lies only on its stomach). Trying to correct this disorder seems to make no sense to me, since we should not allow such a pup to grow into adulthood and reproduce this genetic defect in its offspring. In any case corrective therapy is seldom successful.

Next week, I’ll deal with the more degenerative aspect of paralysis and spinal cord problems.

Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals.  Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.

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