Pug Rear Leg Weakness

Hind Limb Weakness/Paralysis in Chinese Pugs
By Dr. Ed Mapes
Stonebridge Animal Hospital

Spinal disorders can afflict dogs of any breed. Common symptoms usually include weakness of the rear legs (paresis) that can lead to paralysis, a decreased sensation of rear leg positioning (proprioceptive deficits), along with urinary and fecal incontinence. Some conditions cause pain while other dogs are pain free.

Spinal conditions that can cause these symptoms include: intervertebral disc disease, spondylosis deformans, hemivertebra, neoplasia, fibrocartilage embolus, spinal cyst, meningomyelitis, degenerative myelopathy, syringomyelia, and subarachnoid diverticulum. These are all spinal problems that we’ve been aware of for quite some time.

Chinese Pugs develop rear leg weakness more often than most breeds of dogs, and the reasons are not always explained by radiographic abnormalities or a thorough examination. Veterinarians at Michigan State University School of Veterinary Medicine are exploring Chinese Pugs for a newly-discovered condition called Constrictive Myelopathy (CM). This has also been referred to as “Pug myelopathy”.

Dogs afflicted with CM have a malformation of certain thoracic vertebrae that, over time, constricts the spinal cord and interferes with nerve transmission to the rear legs and abdominal structures. The discovery of Constrictive Myelitis explains the pathology of many Pugs that have previously gone undiagnosed.

This MRI demonstrates fluid within the spinal canal that constricts the spinal cord and interrupts nervous transmission.





Constrictive Myelopathy cannot be diagnosed by digital radiographs, but MRI examination of the spine illustrates a fluid buildup within the spinal canal that causes cord compression. There is also a change in the appearance of the cord itself, reflecting pathology resulting from this condition.

Spinal surgery to decompress the cord, if performed early enough, can alleviate the compression and restore nerve transmission to the legs and abdominal organs. Longstanding compression though makes even surgical management less likely to provide relief for these patients.

Laser therapy can restore rear leg function for a finite period of time, but worsening of the condition eventually makes laser therapy ineffective. The rear legs usually become very weak or paralyzed, and fecal and urinary incontinence can become problematic for these patients. It is hoped that further research will bring us more options for treatment of these wonderful little dogs that don’t deserve this condition.

Early examination and testing is important in diagnosis and the chance to surgically restore nerve function in this disease. Pugs that show signs of rear leg dysfunction, urinary or fecal incontinence, or spinal pain should be seen by a veterinarian so that correct diagnosis and treatment can be initiated.

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