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Proprioceptive Deficits in Dogs

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Proprioceptive deficits are abnormal body positions or movements due to a lack of normal perception. Loss of proprioception causes abnormal placement reactions in the limbs (legs), abnormal limb position at rest (legs crossed or paws turned under), and abnormal wearing of the toes.

Loss of proprioception is a nonspecific indication of neurologic disease. Proprioceptive deficits may have little to no impact on the affected individual; however, its presence may represent severe or life-threatening illness, and therefore, should not be ignored and should be addressed if it persists or worsens.

General Causes

  • Cerebral (brain) diseases
  • Disorders of the brain-stem, which is the stalk-like structure of the base of the brain that attaches to the spinal cord
  • Disorders of the spinal-cord
  • Disorders of the peripheral nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord

    What to Watch For

  • Abnormal placement reaction of the limbs in which your pet may act as though he does not know where his feet are
  • Abnormal limb posture at rest (limb crossed over, turned under)
  • Abnormal wearing of the toes
  • Partial loss of movement of a limb/limbs)
  • Paralysis (complete loss of movement of a limb/limbs)
  • Urinary incontinence (inability to hold urine/leaking urine)
  • Ataxia (incoordination)
  • Weakness
  • Seizures
  • Abnormal levels of consciousness

    Diagnosis

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Biochemical profile
  • Urinalysis
  • Thoracic (chest) and abdominal radiographs (X-rays)
  • Myelogram (radiographs of the spinal cord after the injection of dye)
  • Cerebrospinal fluid analysis (CSF tap)
  • Computed tomography (CT scan)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

    Treatment

    Depending on the specific case or patient it may be difficult or even impossible to treat proprioceptive deficits symptomatically. If appropriate, there are several things your veterinarian might prescribe or recommend to treat your pet's symptoms.

  • Strict cage rest
  • Corticosteroids
  • Antibiotic therapy

    Home Care

    Administer any prescribed medication as directed by your veterinarian. Observe your pet's general activity and appetite, and watch closely for the worsening of signs, bringing them to the attention of your veterinarian.

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