Coonhound Paralysis

This blog talks about our experience when Goya (our 150lb English Mastiff) came down with coonhound paralysis (also called acute idiopathic polyradiculoneuritis).

Monday, March 27, 2006

Overview of Goya's history

Goya is mastiff, born in April 1997. He had a lot of allergies as a pup and, after several vets couldn't help with the allergies, at the urging of his breeder, we started feeding the BARF diet (biologically-appropriate raw food) when he was about a year old. That really helped with the allergies and he has been healthy and happy for many years. He is small for a male mastiff, about 155 lbs adult weight. He has his Canine Good Citizen's certificate and is just the most loving, perfect family member.

(Lisa Nicollelo is Goya's breeder, see her page at
See some pictures of Goya as a young dog at Lisa's "extended family" page, about half way down.)

In late June 2003, Goya suddenly lost control of his back legs and over the course of a few days, lost the ability to walk at all. We took him to our regular vet and then to an orthopedic surgeon and then to the vet school at Ohio State. No one could diagnose him. They did many blood tests and a nerve biopsy and his symptoms fit no pattern they could recognize. Coonhound paralysis was mentioned, but they kept saying he wasn't "down enough" (he could always lay sternally and roll over). Finally, after about 5 weeks of tests, they gave him doxycycline (just to shut me up) and within 4 days he was up and walking. He was on doxy for about 8 weeks, and 3 weeks after going off it, he collapsed again. They put him back on doxy and he recovered quickly -- this time he was on it for about 16 weeks. Then he was fine for a good long time.

He had weakness in the hind quarters in spring 2005 and we put him back on doxy and he never collapsed -- just got stronger in a few days. The vets still had no idea what was going on with him, but doxycycline seemed to be his drug of choice. (They always did full blood work-ups before putting him back on the antibiotic, to make sure it wasn't something else, but nothing ever came back out of the ordinary.)

Then, on Nov. 19th 2005 (the Saturday before Thanksgiving) he started looking weak in the back legs. He "tells us" he is starting to get weak by taking the stairs one at a time on the way down. I called the vet and they prescribed the doxy over the phone this time, so we started it on Saturday and gave him the right dosage until Wednesday night. We were going away for the Thanksgiving holiday and Goya was going to the kennel with our other two dogs (Cherry, the mutt, and Joe, the younger mastiff). We forgot to pack the doxy, so he didn't get four days of doses. The kennel lady said he was fine while he was at her house (she is very vigilant -- I'm sure she would have noticed if something wasn't right). We started giving him the doxy again. 10 days after coming home, on December 5th (I think), he was weak in the morning and needed help with a hand-held sling to go out in the morning. By the afternoon, he couldn't walk at all. That's when the latest, and most severe, bout began, and those details will have to wait for another post.


  • At Fri Jun 16, 11:50:00 PM EDT, Blogger nareena said…

    my australian shephard is 6 days into his first bout with what we think is coonhound's and we have a lot of questions. you both seem to know a lot about it, and I'd love to hear any advice you might have. especially about the "doxy" as we have been told there is no medication for this. He has bowel movements, though not controlled and we are going tomorrow for a catheter and bag. I am also interested in hearing about the re-curring episodes. Please contact me at nareena@theguhins.comm we are very new to all this and are desperately seeking good advice for our buddy "yogi bear".

  • At Sat Jun 17, 06:19:00 PM EDT, Blogger Gary said…

    Doxy isn't a cure if your dog actually has coonhound paralysis. It is a cure for tick based diseases. Some other similar injuries could look like coonhound paralysis lik:

    1) Brain injury. Brain injuries like strokes can leave the dog paralyzed.

    2) Spinal injury. Spinal injuries can also leave the dog paralyzed.

    3) Neurological problems. These problems can only really be diagnosed by a neurologist. Coonhound paralysis is one of the possible Neurological problems. Unfortunately, I believe there is no no positive diagnostic test for coonhound paralysis. Some other problems that can have a positive diagnosis are:

    3a) Blood-work looking for tick-based diseases. This blood-work is different from the enzyme based blood-work done in the Vets office. For us this work is done in North Carolina.

    3b) Blood-work looking for Myasthenia Gravis. This also is different from the standard blood-work. For us this work was done by a lab in San Diego. As far as I know that is the only lab that does this type of work.

    I guess I'm interested in why you believe your dog has coonhound paralysis.

  • At Sat Jun 17, 08:37:00 PM EDT, Blogger Bonnie said…

    I want to emphasize that the vets were surprised that Goya reacted to doxycycline at the time (almost 3 years ago now) and the neurologist at Ohio State in December said that it was a coincidence that he got better the first time with doxy. Doxy is definitely not a cure for coonhund paralysis.

  • At Sat Jun 17, 08:39:00 PM EDT, Blogger Bonnie said…

    We really hope you are getting thorough testing because so many things can cause a dog to be paralyzed -- as Gary says in his comment.

    We had to go through our regular vet who ordered the blood work to detect tick-borne disease, then an orthopedic specialist to rule out spinal problems, and then a neurologist to send out both blood and nerve samples to rule out Myasthenia Gravis. They didn't even diagnose it at all the first time (because he was better by the time they ran out of tests). This second time, they had a whole history to use and so came to a diagnosis earlier.

    The possible diagnosis of Myasthenia Gravis was the scariest because the tests take so long to come back that it can get worse and kill the dog -- so they want to treat before the tests come back. But the medicine for Myasthenia Gravis can stop the dog's heart if it DOESN'T have Myasthenia Gravis. So you have to take the dog's pulse often and stop the medication if it gets weak. I stopped the medication on a Friday evening and on Saturday the vet said if I hadn't, I would have killed him. Whew -- disaster averted.

    As far as recurrence, all I can tell you is that I have read on the web that it is possible that it can recur. However, I don't know anyone besides us who have had that happen to their dog. The second time was definitely worse than the first, but he was 2.5 years older, so that might have had something to do with it -- he's nine now and was only six the first time.

    As Gary says, we are happy to correspond with you about your dog. That's why we started the blog in the first place.

  • At Fri Jul 28, 12:52:00 AM EDT, Blogger pinenut77 said…

    Thank you so much for posting your experiences with Coonhound Paralysis.

    My dog Mo was diagnosed with this 7 days ago (by the process of elimination). It is nice to hear someone who has gone through this tough experience. Luckily she still has control of her bowels, we just have to carry her outside.

    Thanks again, I look forward to hearing more Goya experiences.

  • At Wed Nov 29, 12:15:00 PM EST, Anonymous Nikki said…

    Thanks for posting your experiences. Our 8-year-old red Jindo was diagnosed with coonhound paralysis almost 6 weeks ago. He went downhill fast, and hasn't yet shown any improvement. He can walk just a few stiff, careful steps but that's all. Joey was very fit and athletic, and we're concerned about muscle atrophy. I don't think the recovery phase has begun because he seems to still be getting weaker. (I read on one site that it may take 4-8 weeks to see improvement). We have an appointment at a rehab facility in MD next week.

  • At Mon Apr 09, 03:52:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have been looking at all the comments on this site. Our Jack Russell, Murphy, has coonhounds and is very immoble. His front and back legs cannot hold him. The vet has said it is probably terminal. We are about 10 days into this and are stuggling with what to do. Any info you have, we would love to hear from you. Our email is Thank you

  • At Thu Dec 06, 11:47:00 AM EST, Anonymous Court said…

    Hi I read your blogs on goya history of physical progress and had a few questions. On Sunday November 25, 2007 our dog Bella, a bernese mountain dog, woke up did her normal routine of going outside barking rolling around, but she was acting really strange (breathing heavy, walking around a lot, going in and out a lot). At the end of the day she ate her dinner and laid down for a few hours. Around 10pm we called for her to go outside to go potty and she could not walk with her hind legs. She could get up but she would do what they call a drunk stumble and fall over. My husband and I slung a towel under her belly and noticed that she could use her right leg but was dragging her left leg. We immediately took her to the emergency vet where they did an X-ray of her chest. The X-ray showed that her spinal cord did not show any abnormally but they did find a lung mass. We then transferred her to internal medicine where they did an ultrasound and did not find cancer anywhere else in her body. We took her home at that point trying to decide what to do next. Over the next week bella's other hind leg become immobile and she lost the ability to wag her tail. We noticed right away (Monday night 11/26/07) that she lost the ability to bark and she could no longer lap water from a bowl or feed from bowl. We began feeding her on her side and using a water bottle to keep her hydrated. We finally were able to get an appointment with a neurologist on Monday (12/3/07) we were ready to proceed with a MRI to find out if this was a rupture disk, but b/c of the lung mass the neurologist thought that the cancer is probably in her spinal cord and that is why she has the partial paralysis in her back legs. He also stated that he would be very guarded to do any surgery on her even if she did have a disk problem. He also stated that she did not seem to be in any pain beside discomfort from not being able to walk and since she continued to decline over the past weak he did not feel it was disk problem. He believed at this point we should not proceed with any further treatment and even offered to put her down at that time.

    At this point, we trusted the doctor and were starting to make final plans. Last night I received a phone call from my sister about coonhounds paralysis. Bella continues to eat (and believe me she can eat), drink, and besides being uncomfortable because she can not walk, she is in a good mood and excited to see us to the point that when we come she thrashes her body around and cries trying to get up. She is able to control her bladder to a certain point but she drags both her hind legs and her front paws twitch a lot. My husband and I are now conflicted on what to do or if it could even be coonhounds paralysis. What keeps us hanging on is we cant understand why she would lose her bark from cancer (unless the cancer is in her throat) and why she would continue to eat normal and be in such a good mood if this was from cancer. Also, it was so sudden and there was no signs. We wonder if the doctors maybe overlooked coonhounds paralysis because they found the lung mass. We understand that Bella has a mass that is most likely cancer but we would be willing to nurse her back to health if it is possible and let her live the rest of her life as a normal dog.

    So I guess my questions are does any of the symptoms described above relate to what you have seen when your dogs were infected with coonhounds paralysis and when did you start seeing signs of improvements, last night when I was lifting bella tail to clean her up she pulled it back down and stretch her hind legs (improvement maybe or maybe a reflex)? Also, the bark when did that come back (if that occurred)?

    Thank you for any help we are so confused, we don't want her to have to suffer if it is cancer but we don't want to put her down if she will be able to return to a generally normal lifestyle.


    Courtney Brandenburg

  • At Thu Dec 06, 11:48:00 AM EST, Anonymous court said…

    Sorry I can be reached at

  • At Wed Jul 18, 09:25:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    we have an apbt 7 month old, he was completley normal as a pup.. about 2 months ago we noticd a loss of motor function in his hind legs when he ran and jumped... i brought him to vet and response was its just his swag, i wanted to belive that was all it was, but over the next couple of weeks we have noticed a steep incline in his syptoms, his appetite is amazing he eats a ton, he wants to play but cant keep up, i brought him back to diff vet in same practice, she said in all her years as a vet she has never seen anything like it, she prescribed clindamycin, and a steroid predisone, neither seems to have done much, buts its only been a week.. we really need help with this, we dont have the resources to run all the tests and mris and xrays... we were told it is def a neurological issue... anyone have any ideas or suggestions, we also have a 4 yr old female who is un affected it doesnt have much relivence but all the info i can get out i imagine will help.. i can be reached at someone please help we love our sullivan and dont want to put him down, the vet says thats the next option my name is chris


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