If you have a paralyzed dog you are probably familiar with the Pinch Test. It is part of a veterinary neurological exam that determines whether or not your pet has any Deep Pain Sensation. The test consists of a veterinarian grabbing hold of your pup’s paralyzed limb and firmly pinching the toes and the skin between them.
Sophie had quite a few pinch tests over the course of her illness from each veterinary specialist we saw. The goal behind the test is to see how your fur kid reacts to a painful sensation in a sensitive part of their body.
No one wants to see their dog in pain, but believe me when I say the pinch test is an unpleasant experience you hope your pet will feel.
The pinch test for Deep Pain Sensation is given to dogs who have hind end weakness or paralysis due to Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD), Degenerative Myelopathy, Hemivertebrae, a ruptured disc, stroke and other injuries of the spinal cord.
Deep Pain Sensation is the awareness of pain, pressure or tension in the lower layers of the skin, muscles, tendons or joints. When a dog is able to feel the pinch, it is a hopeful sign the nerves in the spinal cord are correctly communicating with the brain. It is a signal that a paralyzed dog might be on the road to a full or partial recovery.
When veterinarians administer the pinch test they are looking for a very specific and intentional response from your dog. Some dogs react to the test by jerking their leg away, but unfortunately that is not what we hope to see. This is called an involuntary reflex and not a deliberate response.
The pinch test requires a calculated reaction from your dog. Your veterinarian hopes that your dog will look back over their shoulder at the person squeezing their toes with an expression that says, “Hey stop doing that!”
Deep pain begins and ends at different times
The loss of deep pain sensation happens at different stages depending on the type of health problem your dog develops. For dogs who experience mobility issues due to a ruptured disc or a traumatic spinal cord injury it starts immediately at the onset of the condition. And if your dog has surgery to repair the injury, deep pain sensation is one of the first feelings to return. Your veterinarian will watch closely for it. Many dogs who are eventually able to walk again start to feel pain sensations in the first 24 hours after surgery.
It’s a different story for dogs with progressive neurological illnesses like Degenerative Myelopathy or Pug Myelopathy. These dogs continue to pass the pinch test during the early stages of their disease. They gradually lose the response as their condition worsens. When these dogs stop feeling deep pain sensation, it is a sign that total paralysis is approaching.
My dog’s case
Sophie had a neurological condition rather than an injury. The course of her paralysis was slow and progressive. It took nearly 6 months for her to completely lose the use of her hind legs. It also took a long time for Sophie to lose her deep pain sensation. The strong reaction she had to the pinch test gave us hope the disease would not advance. Sadly, the day finally came when she didn’t realize the veterinarian was administering the test. From that day forward, for nearly 5 years, Sophie was paralyzed from the waist down.
Do you have a paralyzed dog that regained their deep pain sensation? I’d love to hear your story for a future post.