Paralysis Due to Spinal Cord Lesion in Dogs

Schiff-Sherrington Phenomenon in Dogs

Schiff-Sherrington phenomenon occurs when the spinal cord is transected by an acute, usually severe lesion to the second lumbar vertebrae (located in the lower back), causing exaggerated posturing in the upper extremities (front limb extension). Hind limb paralysis (regarded as the release phenomenon) can also occur due to damage to the border cells and interneurons located in the lumbar spinal cord (mainly L2-4), which normally exert influence on the spinal segments below the transection.

Symptoms and Types

  • Unusual gait
  • Unable to walk or stand
  • Forelimbs are rigidly extended
  • Hind limbs show spastic paralysis (upper motor neuron lesion) or flaccidly paralyzed (lower motor neuron lesion)


Schiff-Sherrington phenomenon may develop due to severe thoracolumbar spinal injuries (such as those brought on by an auto accident) or because of intervertebral disk disease (most common).


You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health to your veterinarian, including the onset and nature of the symptoms. He or she will then perform a complete physical examination as well as a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and electrolyte panel to rule out other causes associated with your pet’s exaggerated posture.

The most useful tools to visualize the dog’s spinal cord, and thereby locate the thoracolumbar lesion, is by taking CT (computed tomography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans, as well as employing myelography, in which a dye is injected during radiographic examination.


The most basic element of the nervous system


The prediction of a disease’s outcome in advance


An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness


The study of the spine after dye has been injected


The part of the back between the pelvis and the thorax


The term used to describe the movement of an animal


A change in the way that tissue is constructed; a sore


Term used to imply that a situation or condition is more severe than usual; also used to refer to a disease having run a short course or come on suddenly.

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