Paralyzed Dogs Walk Again Thanks to Their Snouts

February 16, 2019
Dog's snouts are not only super sensitive, but super powered!

We all know about the amazing sense of smell dogs have, capable of capturing a thousand times more smells than the human nose. But that’s not the only thing it can do: the cells found on their snout can be used to reverse paralysis. As incredible as it may sound, paralyzed dogs now have a chance to walk again.

Tests performed on paralyzed dogs and their conclusions

A recent study conducted by a group of scientists at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom involved a total of 34 paralyzed dogs. The findings of this study have shown that the tissue found in dogs’ snouts acts as stem cells capable of reversing paralysis.

A wheelchair for paralyzed dogs.

During this research, a piece of a dog’s snout tissue was extracted and cultivated in a laboratory. The experts then managed to grow and multiply the cells in appropriate conditions.

In a second phase, the cells grew but they also split to create other cells, acting as if they were stem cells. When the amount of this tissue sample was enough, it was injected into the damaged parts of the dog’s spinal cord.

As a result, paralytic dogs were able to walk again. They said goodbye to the doggie wheelchairs that used to hold their hind legs. A month after the research, the majority of the dogs that had received the transplanted tissue showed considerable improvement.

This transplant allowed them to use their hind legs again and coordinate their movements with their front legs in a walking belt.

We must add that none of the dogs managed to fully recover the mobility of their joints. At least, not the kind of mobility they had before suffering the injury.

One of the specialists conducting the study, Robin Franklin, said: “We trust that the technique allows us to restore movement, at least partially, in dogs with spinal cord damage. However, there’s still a long way to go before we can say that this would allow for a complete recovery of lost functions”.

Paralyzed dogs

There are many factors that can cause paralysis in our pets. It can appear suddenly or develop gradually, affecting the locomotor system, legs, or the face. Because of this, it’s essential to correctly identify the cause of this paralysis.

Causes of paralysis in dogs:

  • Infectious diseases. Some diseases such as canine distemper and rabies can provoke paralysis in dogs.
  • Congenital diseases. One of the most common causes of paralysis is the so-called “degenerative disease”. This is a birth defect that causes the decomposition and disruption of the membrane that surrounds the spinal cord.

  • Malignant tumors. In these cases, the paralysis can affect any part of the body, depending on the area where the tumor is located. If it’s found in the central nervous system, both sides of the face or body can be affected. The so-called “spinal tumors” usually affect the legs, causing a severe paralyzing effect.
  • Injuries on the spinal cord or neck. These injuries are normally caused by accidents or sudden movements. As a result, they can cause permanent damage, either in the front or hind legs, on the left or right side of the body.
  • Injuries due to accidents. Our pet can suffer injuries caused by an accident, and suffer paralysis as a result. If a major injury didn’t occur, then the paralysis will only be temporary.

  • Poisoning can also cause paralysis.
  • Tick ​​bites and other parasites. These types of bites, from the parasites’ saliva, leave toxins in the dog’s body, and can cause paralysis.

The treatment for paralysis

Paralyzed dog resting on the ground.
Photo by: myri_bonnie

The treatment will depend on the main cause of the paralysis. It will also depend on how aggressive the disease is.

Medication, surgery or therapy will be necessary if the paralysis has been caused by a herniated or slipped disc. Tumors or obstructions in the blood flow are usually surgically operated, depending on their location.

Hydrotherapy is now a common treatment. This is especially the case in dogs with locomotion problems, dogs who can’t support their legs well, and those who are in post-surgery care.

This treatment is also suitable for nervous, overweight, or hyperactive dogs, as it will help them to relax. The treatment exercises the inactive muscles through the pressure that the water exerts on the animal’s body.

Wetzig, A., Mackay-Sim, A., & Murrell, W. (2011). Characterization of olfactory stem cells. Cell Transplantation. https://doi.org/10.3727/096368911X576009