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Years ago, when Sydney would get up off her bed (or down from the sofa), she would only stand and walk on three legs. Then a few minutes later, she was on all four legs; and 15 minutes after that, she was running with her siblings. I thought this was a sign of a new injury but then I wondered if a dog's leg could fall asleep.
The answer is “yes!”
Just like his humans, if a dog lies in one position for a long enough period then this will prevent blood from reaching a limb. And, just like with humans, the dog will have the sensation of their leg falling asleep.
When I Googled “can a dog's leg fall asleep?” I found this video, which is a great example of what we witnessed with Sydney.
If you witness something similar with your dog, I recommend that you…
- Monitor your dog closely – you'll want to be able to give your veterinarian as much detailed information as possible should you need to take your dog in for an examination. In Sydney's case, if her leg fell asleep so often that it caused her regular discomfort and prevented her from being “a dog” then I would call her veterinarian to see if this is a precursor to something more serious.
- Note how long it takes for your dog to recover – if it had taken Sydney 20 minutes or more to recover, I would have called the emergency veterinarian for guidance. But she was fine within a few minutes.
- If your dog is experiencing pain – call your veterinarian immediately.
- If it seems like your dog is experiencing paralysis in his legs – not just discomfort caused by a sleepy limb, call your veterinarian immediately.
So the answer to “can a dog's leg fall asleep?” is YES! After our experience, it seemed so obvious that of course this could happen, but it still caught us off guard. We've only seen this with two of our dogs over the past decade, so I'm not sure how common it is, but it can happen.
What if it's a Precursor to Leg Paralysis?
While my dogs were okay, this situation did bring to mind leg paralysis. Any paralysis in a dog, even if it's temporary, is frightening and should be taken seriously. Paralysis occurs when our dogs experience a loss of muscle function, making it challenging to move parts of the body. The area most affected are the hind legs, however, this can occur in other areas of the body too.
Symptoms of Paralysis in Dogs
Obviously, the main symptom that we'd look for would be our dog's inability to move their legs or dragging their rear legs when walking. But the list of symptoms are expansive and surprising.
- Stiffness and pain in their neck, along their spine, or in their legs
- Urinary and fecal incontinence, constipation, or inability to urinate (because the muscles aren't working)
- Signs of pain in neck, spine, or legs
- Head tilting, drooling
- Eyes and eyelids look off, strange eye movement, unable to blink, or increased eye discharge
- Trouble eating, swallowing, or food drops from mouth
- Weakness, weight loss (muscle mass)
- Trouble breathing
Causes of Paralysis in Dogs
There is a long list of reasons why a dog might lose the ability to use their legs from aging and poor genetics to a bad reaction to a vaccine, an injury, a tick bite, or as a result of a serious illness. What's important is to seek treatment immediately so that you can get your dog on a path to pain free existence. Because paralysis isn't the end.
There are options offered by both traditional and holistic veterinarians from medication, surgery, acupuncture, and more. If you're concerned about your dog's health, please contact your veterinarian to discuss prevention, risks, and treatment.