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Ask the Veterinarian/Sons dog just lost control of hind legs


QUESTION: Hi, thank you for being there. My sons dog, a lab mix, approximately 12 years hard a hard time walking this morning. My son left and about 3 hours later she went to get up and fell back, her back legs gave out. We have her on a blanket and covered to be warm. My wife thinks she feels cold. We have tried to get her to stand but she is unable to so. She cannot stand and is laying down and can hardly hold her head up.  We have had dogs, never had one just lose control like this. She is just laying there, slow  breathing, seems shallow, cold feet, ears, nose, mussel area. She is not trying to move, laying quiet.  She is heavy and we cannot pick her up.  Her breathing seems to be minimal, like just enough to be alive. JJ.

ANSWER: I'm sorry it took me so long to answer this but I had an emergency medical problem myself today- so I apologize for the late response.

A 12 yr old lab is going to have problems with her spine and what often happens is that they have what we call " brown outs," where the signals from the brain don't go all the way to the rear end and leg muscles. When that happens the dog will have trouble walking, or getting up from her sleep position. Often they will be walking and their legs will just give out. Eventually, the dog has a "black out" and can no longer walk. They don't feel pain, in fact they don't feel at all back there so they lose bowel control as well.

There are so many factors that can mitigate this. Heart conditions, heartworms, Obesity, Spinal stenosis (shrinking of part of the spinal cord).

As you can see it's generally something that has to be diagnosed by your vet. If she is feeling cold all over, or at her feet, this could be a sign of bad circulation which may or may not have to do with her heart.

She really needs to see a vet and soon. I hope your son came home and was able to help her up and to the vets. If not today then tomorrow.

Again I apologize. I spent a good part of the day in the ER myself.
Please let me know how she does.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi, sad news, she was put down this morning. Son is hurting a lot of course and I don't know what the vet said but I expected this outcome.  I had Justin read your e-mail and I am sure it helped to understand when the decision was reached.  Almost worse than losing a child.

Your concern and kindness is/was appreciated.  Nice that you can help others, what goes around comes around. Have a safe day.

Please enjoy nature at its best, I have had 5 sets of hummingbirds raised in my covered atrium on my big bird wind chimes. I set up a blind to make the videos and another ladder by the nest to pet the babies. Mom can't smell so she doesn't know I have been bonding with the kids. Some think the videos are all of the same bird but it is different moms.

I was afraid of this but pretty much expected this outcome. It is so very hard to lose them. I lost my beloved Annie Mouse in November at 14 from a cancer that spread from her leg to her lungs. It was the right thing to do but it just killed me.

She was the last of two dogs that I had that took me through divorce, and a lot of painful times. They are so much more than just dogs to us.

I know your son is hurting a lot right now. Please remind him that he gave her a gift that we cannot give each other- the gift to end ones suffering and pain.

Your videos are wonderful! I love to watch these and am a regular at Phoebe's cam as well. Thanks for the link, I subscribed!

Please give your son a big hug from me.  

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Jana Connell RVT, CVT


PLEASE READ BEFORE SUBMITTING TO ME: I am NOT a vet and do NOT diagnose diseases. That is only for a licensed Veterinarian to do. I will give you suggestions and steer you toward calling your vet for help. You can call the vet's office and talk to the technician there or the vet at times. Don't be afraid to call them! If you have a serious issue with your pet please post it to one of the veterinarians in here- I will tell you the same thing in my answer. IF your pet is injured or in an emergency situation, CALL YOUR VET- Do not wait and post in here. Just call the vet's office and get them in to see the vet right away. Critical treatment time is lost if you seek answers here when you should have your precious pet at the vets!! Don't sit at home waiting for an answer when your pet is critically ill or injured!! I can answer most questions about small animal and wildlife care as well as small animal nutrition. I can also answer questions about all phases of dental care for small animals. I DO NOT answer questions about birds (unless it is wildlife or songbirds) or HAMSTERS/GERBILS/CHINS/GUINEA PIGS/REPTILES/FROGS/RABBITS/PET BIRDS OF ANY KIND so please submit these questions to the appropriate sections. I, as well as other experts in here, do NOT do homework questions- that is for YOU to do! Please respect these rules for all of us. Thanks!


I have over 42 years experience in the field of veterinary medicine. I specialized in small animals and did wildlife rehab for over 25 years, mostly raptors, squirrels and opossums. I am a Small Animal Nutritional Consultant with 6 certificates from Hills Pet Foods, CNM and Purina. I also specialized in Small Animal Dentistry which is a field I truly love. I also Teach Veterinary Technology to working technicians who are studying to take their California Tests to become Licensed Technicians. They have to take both the VTNE (Veterinary Technician National Exam) and the California boards.

Audubon,World Wildlife Federation, American Society of Veterinary Dental Technicians.


Licensed with California and Oregon, RVT and CVT. Certified Veterinary Dental Technician Have over 1500 logged hours of Continuing Education Credits(that means I keep up to date!).

Awards and Honors
Nominated for Expert of the Month for the last 5 years.

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