Coonhound Paralysis

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

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Even in passing, Goya's heart is bigger than his big body

It has taken me 10 months to write this: Goya died of cancer in April 2007.

He had recovered to a good quality of life from his long bout with coonhound paralysis -- getting onto the couch himself to lay his head (or butt) in our laps, going up and down stairs (though he looked at the stairs to our bedroom as if it were Mount Everest each night), walking to Starbucks each morning, in short, doing things normal old mastiffs do.

In late March, 2007, he started to limp very badly on his left front leg. His shoulder seemed to swell up rapidly and we thought he might have hurt it coming down stairs or something. We called in the vet and he took one look at Goya, laid his hands on him, and told us that Goya had a very aggressive tumor in his shoulder and that he was in a lot of pain; there was nothing we could do but decide when to end his pain. The vet gave us patches with pain medication (a highly controlled substance in the US; more powerful than morphine) and showed us how to use them to keep him comfortable while we decided what to do and when to do it. This was on a Thursday.

We immediately called the girls, both off at college on different coasts of the US. We redeemed frequent flyer miles so the girls could come home to say goodbye that weekend. Laura managed to stay for 1.5 days; Liza only made it home for about 4 hours. Goya was soooooo happy to see his girls! Cuddling him all the while, we discussed what to do with his body. Gary mentioned that we are all organ donors -- was something like that a possibility for Goya? Maybe someone could study the effects of coonhound paralysis on his body and how he recovered, or something. I pledged to find out and we took the girls to the airport.

The next day, I surfed the web and called the Ohio State Vet School where Goya had been diagnosed. They couldn't help us. Since coonhound paralysis is related to Guillain-Barre Syndrome in humans, maybe the Neurology Department at the University of Pittsburgh PA (near where we live) would want him, so I called there. The wonderful woman who answered the phone said it wouldn't be appropriate for the department to accept a canine cadaver, but that she would spend some time surfing the web to help me find something and she took my phone number so she could get back to me. I corresponded with a researcher who was now retired but used to study coonhound paralysis - he directed me to another researcher who was interested but had no active research program and couldn't help. Seeming dead end. The woman from Pitt's neurology department called me back and told me that she had found the Educational Memorial Programs website -- I might want to look into it.

The Education Memorial Progam, UPenn being the nearest to us, was exactly what we were looking for; a way for Goya's death to help other animals. Dr. Lili Duda, head of the program at UPenn, ( was wonderful to us and to Goya. She told us that we could choose to have our own vet put Goya down and then drive his body to Philadelphia (about a 5 hour drive) or we could drive him to her and she would put him down, it wouldn't make a difference to the value of his body to the program. Since Goya loved car rides, we decided to drive him to her. Gary and I took Wednesday off (less than a week since he was diagnosed) and drove to Philadelphia, stopping for hamburgers at McDonalds along the way. Dr Duda was wonderful -- we called when we were about 20 minutes from her hospital and she met us in the waiting room so Goya didn't have to be in the waiting room for long (loving cars, he hated vet waiting rooms). She knew just just how to scratch his ears and under his chin to make friends and calm him. She gave us all the time we needed to say goodbye. I am crying now, remembering how this was the best we could all do for this wonderful boy -- very painful for all, but the best we could do.

I had given Dr. Duda all I had found about coonhound paralysis researchers and she said that she had contacted them about what might be able to be learned. She had a surgeon ready to extract the nerves that might be helpful and would ship them to them. No one knew if it would really help, but it was the most we all could do.

So, Goya survived the coonhound paralysis, twice, and was struck down by cancer a few days short of his 10th birthday. Every dog is special, but Goya was my heart.

There will no more updates on Goya. But I am notified when people put comments on the blog, and I will continue to answer what I can. Now that I have written about his death, maybe I'll have some closure and be more willing to be active on this blog. However. Goya's trials were over 2 years ago now and my memory is growing dim. PLEASE, if you have information to pass along, put it in comments on this blog so other people can find it - or link to your own site so people can find your dog's story. Let's share everything we know to the benefit of our friends who can't read the internet for themselves. An please consider an Educational Memorial Program, when there is nothing more you can do.

A sappy, teary post, I know,


  • At Sun Feb 03, 03:44:00 PM EST, Blogger Kris said…

    Dear Bonnie,

    I am so sad to hear of your loss after having to go through so much with Goya. I hope that you can find some peace in the fact that you were able to have some quality time with Goya before he had to go. Our animal kids are so important and only those of us who have that special bond with our pets rather than seeing them as "just another dog" can understand that.

    Thank you for responding so quickly when I wrote to you on the weekend.

    I have added a link to your post from my own to help other doggie parents dealing with this situation. Here is a link to my own and I hope you will look at it periodically to see how Kiera is progressing. We have had a good weekend and I'm hoping to add more good news by the end of the week.

    Please feel free to contact me there to share your thoughts or experiences.

    My hear goes out to you and your family for your loss and I am having trouble holding back the tears.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Kristina and Kiera

  • At Mon Feb 04, 07:45:00 AM EST, Blogger Uli said…

    Dear Bonnie & Gary

    I'm very sorry to hear of Goya's passing, it came as a shock, I was thinking that everything was fine after the coonhound paralysis. Goya was such a huge and important part of your life and it seemed very cruel that he developed cancer after getting over 2 bouts of the paralysis.

    Thank you for replying about my skunk Tyler, unfortunately nobody knows anything about skunk diseases so we're at a loss as to what we are dealing with.

    Best wishes

  • At Thu Feb 28, 04:40:00 PM EST, Blogger hmwe46 said…

    I am so sorry for your loss Bonnie.

    I read Goya's story in November when my Weimaraner came down with Coonhound paralysis. I was checking back for updates on him and read about his passing.

    I also recently lost my 12 yr old Rottie and it's beyond words.

    Anyway, here is Lexi's story of "coonhound paralysis":

    Best always!!

  • At Wed Aug 13, 12:11:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dear Bonnie,

    I am very sorry and sad about your loss of Goya. But want to THNAK YOU for posting updates on Goya. Our dog got paralyzed last Sunday night and after going to emergency room hoping to find answers we understood that we will have to find the answers ourselves pretty much as vet's were clueless.. Your postings helped a lot to learn about Coonhound paralysis. We are talking our dog to a neurologist in San Diego (the very same clinic that does Lab tests for MG) but your posting helped to be prepared and understand what to expect and how to help our dog.

    Thank you for taking the time and sharing it with everyone, lots of people benefited from your information.

    Yelena & Dmitry

  • At Wed Aug 13, 02:51:00 PM EDT, Blogger Bonnie said…

    Yelena & Dmitry,
    We are sorry to hear about your dog and wish you the best of luck. If you find anything new or have any comments on things we posted, we'd love to have them on this blog. If you start your own blog or website about your experiences, send me a link and we'll post it in the blog sidebar.
    We're hoping for the best,
    Bonnie & Gary

  • At Tue Aug 19, 03:49:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dear Bonnie,

    I am glad to tell you that our dog is getting better. We are so happy to see that! It's been 9 days now and on day 3 after he could not walk, neurologist gave us doxycycline and prednisone. On day 3 Baykal (this is name of our dog) started to show small signs of improvement: he could not get up or walk but if we would hold him he could stand for a bit. He did not pee for about 1.5 at some point and awe started to express his bladder. He did not dedicate for 7 days and we were worried. On day 6 we noticed that he got a better control of his tong when he was drinking, he also started to move his paws and legs a little bit (before he would not have a control of his legs or paws) and he could shake his head like when they are wet they try to shake it off. On day 6 when we would bring him outside and he could walk a few steps with our help (we had to hold his rear but not the front). By then he would pee if we would tak him outside in the laying position. On day 7 in the evening we pulled him to stand up and he walked like 5 yard on hid own, he was week, but he WALKED. He kept doing a little of walking ever since. He still does not have a lot of strengths in his back legs, so we have to lift his rear and them hi walks. For two day now he walks outside and can pee from standing position and on day 8 he defecated and has been doing it since then. He is getting his strengths slowly but surely. I am so happy for him and I see that he is very motivated now too.
    We do not what the diagnosis yet but there are a few more tests that we are waiting for results this week.
    Bonnie, again, you posting helped a lot on what to do and to expect in this situation. we were very hopeless for the first two days and even started to think that this may be terminal but once we read all people stories about similar case got our hopes up.

    Warm regard,


  • At Wed Mar 04, 09:11:00 PM EST, Blogger victoria said…

    im sorry about goya. but i understand what you went through. and even though my dog hasnt died yet ho too has coon hound paralysis. he first got it in january 2008 from the saliva of a racoon. the vet said there was nothing we could do that it would eventually go away. and he was right it did but he never fully had control of his front left leg. but in december of that year he was down again and till this day (march, 4 2009) he still is. but we have seen an improvement he can sit him self up and wiggle his spine more. but just recently we got an infection on his lower right hip and i was deep and full of magets ]: we have cleaned it out throughly and are treating it. but he seems now to be getting worse. we think hes dieing. we have tried everything to treat him and make him better but nothing seems to were depating wether or not to put him down. see hes a 100 pound mastive/blood hound and we have to feed him 3 times a day. he also has a sister and there inceperable. which is a huge problem. but we dont know what to do. what do you think??

  • At Thu Mar 05, 09:18:00 AM EST, Blogger Bonnie said…


    I am so sorry to hear about your dog. The infection is a complication we never had to face with Goya. Of course you have to trust your own judgment, and your vet's, of how the disease is progressing.

    About his sister, with whom he is very close, I can tell you, that I have researched how "the pack" reacts to the death of a member and everyone I know who has contact with lots of "packs" says that the pack always finds a way to recover, so his sister will find a way to reconcile herself to his death if it comes to that. Secondly, it matters whether he is the leader of she is (I assume you have no other dogs). I have been told that if the leader dies, it is easier for the other dogs if they are allowed to know that the leader has died. And "knowing" for a dog means "sniffing", so if possible let her sniff his body after he is gone. If the dog is not the leader (like our Goya, who was at the bottom of our pack), then it doesn't matter too much -- the pack just goes on, one member less. It sounds heartless, but dogs are survivors and that is their way. I have had several members of my pack die in my adult life and I have seen this behavior myself. Also, in my work with Mastiff Rescue, I have seen many dogs lose their entire pack (be taken from their families) and adjust in a couple of weeks to a new situation.

    So, please, do whatever is right for you and your boy, but don't worry too much about his sister -- she'll be OK in a few weeks.

  • At Sat Feb 20, 02:54:00 PM EST, Blogger lunafaille said…


    I think you are a hero. I can't imagine the courage it must have taken to go through recovery with Goya twice, then lose him to cancer, then donate his nerves so a cure might be found.

    So many think that pets are just expendible creatures that can be put down when they become a burden. We get all kinds of flak from those close to us that say we should put her down - that she's "just a dog". Well, she's more than just a dog to us - she's our heart.

    I have renewed strength and hope to fight for our Rina, who has been in recovery for 4 months now.

    Thank you,

  • At Tue Apr 19, 07:45:00 PM EDT, Blogger Nivedita said…

    Dear Bonnie,

    I couldn't help having my eyes wet after reading this post. And though I know its been 4 years I understand the pain you and your family must have gone through. It is never easy to lose your loved really hurts even if time has put a layer of sand on it.
    I appreciate what you did in those circumstances and admire the strength and conviction with which you are working.
    My best regards to you.

  • At Wed Jul 20, 08:35:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Sandy said…

    Hi! I found your blog while searching for info as to why my dog can't walk suddenly. I am so sorry for your loss. We just lost our family dog last week. It is such a sad thing to experience. My 10 yr old pit bull is suddenly having trouble walking on her front left leg. Her shoulder is big and it's as if she has no use of that leg or paw, she cannot put weight on it or even extend her paw. I thought it could be some kind of nerve damage, but after reading about Goya i'm concerned it could be something more... If you don't mind, could you provide more info about Goya's shoulder? I can't afford a vet visit for another two weeks and i'm very scared. You see, my fiance died a year ago and she waa our dog; i can't imagine losing her too
    Pls email me at
    Thank you kindly


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