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Old January 5th, 2005, 06:20 AM
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petdr petdr is offline
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 262
Dog has nerve damage

Nerve damage is frustrating (I have personal experience: three years ago I managed to amputate three fingers on my right hand in an industrial fan; fortunately the fingers were re-attached, but nerve damage is still present. I am still able to perform surgical procedures, etc., however, a sensory deficit is still present, but improving.)

If the nerve sheath and nerve were lacerated or torn, then it is imperative for the sheath to be repaired. The nerve sheath acts as a conduit and insulator for the nerve to travel within. If the sheath and nerve are not continous any longer, then the nerve simply floats and the ends can not find each other to reattach. If the free ends of the nerve sheath are brought together (via microsurgery), then the nerve has a chance to knit.

Now for the frustrating part: nerve cells have very long roots/tendrils, and it takes a very long time for the nerve root to grow back, approx. 1mm per day. These nerve roots/tendrils are rather long--even up to 2-3 feet (obviously not in your small dog, but you get the idea).

The area that was cut/lacerated/damaged that is farthest away from the main body of the nerve cell (which is closer to the spinal cord) will die. Only time will allow the regrowth of the nerve root/tendril to the area of innervation (the target muscle area/etc. where the nerve leaves its effect), and it is essential for this nerve to have a pathway of regrowth--the previously mentioned nerve sheath. Unfortunately, there are some cases where the nerve has been irreparibly damaged; in these cases nerve transplant has been attempted.

I don't have high hopes for holistic treatments because they can not mend a sheath. It is entirely possible that the nerve sheath is still intact in your dog, then it simply time before the nerve heals. If you use holistic/alternative treatments, and the nerve knits, then one may have the impression that these alternative treatments did the healing, when instead it would have occured anyway.

If you feel better using alternatives, then go ahead, but make certain nothing toxic to nerve tissue is used. Sometimes doing nothing is the better path, and letting the body heal itself.

As to the self-mutilation, there will be strange sensations from the limb, even phantom pain (where the mind feels pain from an area that really doesn't have nerve supply. The new signal issues from the damaged site (this can be a long distance from its original normal end point) and is interpreted by the brain as coming from the original undamaged site, much as an amputee who insists that he can still feel a missing limb. The nerve registers still on the brain, but the original area is non-existent.

Occasionally drugs such as narcotics are used to address this, sometimes local nerve blocks, sometimes mild electrical current to confuse the brain by sending another nerve signal, sometimes selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (Prozac, etc.). In people, bio-feedback, etc. seems helpful.

You may need to keep the collar on your little guy for 3-6 months during the
healing phase.

Take-home message: need to assess if the nerve sheath is intact (sounds like it is), and need to control self-mutilation, need to be patient and constantly reasses the little fellow. Physical therapy will be an important component of care, so that muscle atrophy does not occur, and to maintain some sense of well-being. Hope this helps.

Dr. Van Lienden

Dr. Raymond Van Lienden DVM
The Animal Clinic of Clifton
12702 Chapel Road, Clifton
Virginia, U.S.A. 20124
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