"Proprioceptive Deficits in Dogs

"Proprioceptive Deficits in Dogs

Health & Safety

When dogs suffer proprioceptive deficits, it describes how they don’t put their paws on the ground normally. There are various reasons why dogs might not be able to place a paw on the ground which could include the fact they have suffered some sort of injury. However, it could also be due to them having developed a chronic condition and as such, any dog showing signs of dragging their paws or walking in a strange way should be examined by a vet sooner rather than later so their proprioceptive deficits can be investigated.

The Causes

As previously mentioned, dogs can develop proprioceptive deficits for a number of reasons with the most obvious one being when they injure themselves in some way or another and it affects how they move and walk. However, there are two type of the disorder which are as follows:

  • Acute - this is when a dog injures themselves and it results in them experiencing proprioceptive deficits
  • Chronic - this form of the condition is typically associated with dogs that suffer from a degenerative disc disease or some other form of health issue that negatively impacts the spine which includes pinched nerves or inflammation of certain muscles along the spine

Symptoms to Watch Out For

When dogs develop proprioceptive deficits, there are certain signs to watch out for that there is something wrong. Sometimes the symptoms are quite subtle and as such not that noticeable whereas in some cases the signs are very obvious. The symptoms most commonly associated with proprioceptive deficits include the following:

  • Worn nails due to dogs dragging their paws in a strange manner whether from time to time or all the while
  • Staggering
  • Dragging paws
  • Paws knuckling over
  • Walking strangely
  • Unable to place a paw or paws on the ground properly
  • Sleeping in odd positions

The thing to bear in mind is that although a dog's condition might not appear that serious, there could be a more worrying underlying cause which would need to be diagnosed and treated sooner rather than later.

Diagnosing the Condition

A vet would ideally need to have a dog's full medical history and be told how the onset of any symptoms first presented themselves. The vet would thoroughly examine a dog to assess their overall condition and to see how well they can stand, place a paw on the ground. The vet would also test how quickly a dog can flip a paw back to the correct position after it has been gently knuckled over. Dogs not suffering from the problem can flip their paws back immediately whereas those suffering from proprioceptive deficits have a delayed reaction or no reaction at all. If this is the case, vets refer to it as delayed or lacking conscious proprioception"".

A vet would also carry out other tests which would help confirm a diagnosis and would typically recommend the following:

  • X-rays to establish if a dog's spine has been negatively impacted
  • An MRI scan which would help pinpoint damaged or pinched nerves

Treatment Options

The vet would need to identify the source of the problem before putting a treatment plan in place. It the problem can be surgically corrected the vet would recommend carrying out a procedure sooner rather than later. However, where spinal issues are the problem, any surgery is very complex and as such all too often not a viable option. As such supportive care is all-important which typically involves a dog being prescribed anti-inflammatories and a vet might recommend they be given physical therapy too.

Some vets might recommend light laser therapy which helps reduce inflammation while at the same time offering pain relief. However, not many veterinary surgeries offer this type of treatment, but may be able to refer a dog to a specialist so they can undergo the therapy.


The prognosis for dogs suffering from proprioceptive deficits depends on the underlying cause of the problem, whether it can be treated and how well a dog responds to a treatment they are given. If the problem cannot be surgically corrected, a dog would need a lot of supportive care to manage their condition. It is also important to note that even when surgery is an option, there is never any guarantee that the problem would be corrected. It is also worth bearing in mind that even when dogs suffer proprioceptive deficits, they may just trip up from time to time and as such the condition, in itself, is not harmful to them. However, as things progress, the proprioceptive deficits they experience tend to get that much worse which is something owners need to keep an eye on.


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