Idiopathic acute canine polyradiculoneuropathy (Coonhound paralysis) is an inflammatory condition affecting the lower motor neurons as they arise from the spinal cord. The cause of polyradiculoneuritis is unknown, but it is believed to be an immune mediated or autoimmune process, which is associated with inflammatory cells (white blood cells) attacking the nerves. This disorder has been linked to recent raccoon saliva exposure, recent vaccination, and recent gastrointestinal or upper respiratory disease; however, this is not in the history of every case and there is no way to know for sure if there is a link. Some inciting stimulus causes the immune system to become overactive and attack these nerves, which results in neurologic signs.
- Rapidly progressing weakness progressing to paralysis typically in all limbs
- Rapid muscle atrophy
- Weak bark
- Shallow breathing
A diagnosis is made based on clinical suspicion, results of electrodiagnostic testing (EMG, NCV, F-wave) and ruling out other disorders that can present with similar signs. Other diseases that cause similar signs are Botulism, Tick paralysis, protozoal infection, and myastenia gravis. There is not one simple test for this disease.
Treatment is largely supportive and prognosis can be good but recovery can be prolonged. Rehabilitation can speed the recovery process. Recovery may take weeks to months. The affected dog may require assistance with eating and drinking and need to be cleaned up after frequently. Complication can occur at home such as pressure sores, urine scald, urinary tract infection and respiratory infections. Prognosis tends to be related to severity of signs; in other words, the worse the animal is affected, the worse the prognosis. Those that have respiratory compromise typically have a poor prognosis.