Acute canine idiopathic polyradiculoneuritis (ACIP), otherwise known as coonhound paralysis, is a relatively rare disease of dogs that involves nerve inflammation and temporary paralysis. The "coonhouse" designation comes from the condition's suspeted association with raccoon saliva, which may serve as a stimulating agent.
Although the exact cause of coonhouse paralysis isn't known, it is though to be an immune-mediated or autoimmune condition. This means that a dog's own immune system attack the body; specifically the nerves of the limbs, neck and face in this case. It is possible that contact with a raccon--or raccoon saliva, inparticular--triggers the symptoms. Viral or bacterial causes may also be to blame. Any age, gender or breed of dog is at risk for developing coonhound paralysis, but hunting or working dogs who spend time outdoors are more frequently diagnosed.
Usually, symptoms of coonhouse paralysis begin to appear anywhere from one to two weeks after initial contact with the stimulating agent. Hind-end weakness, stiff or unusual gait, muscle wasting (atrophy), weight loss, changes in vocalization as pralysis affects the vocal cords and progression to paralysis in all four limbs are the common signs of the condition. Dogs may also exhibit hypersensitivity to touch, weakness in the facial muscles, respiratory distress and lowered reflex or respone time.
While routine laboratory tests like a blood count and urinalysis won't test specifically for coonhound paralysis, they can help rulle out other potential causes of a dog's symptoms. a diagnosis is usually mad ewith a combination of physical symptom observation, muscle and nerve function tests, and possibly a cerbrospinal fluid tap. Coonhound paralysis is unique in that dogs remain sensitive to pain even with nerve paralysis, which isn't the case in many diseases that cause similar symptoms. Dogs may even be hypersensitive to pain or touch; this response is one way a vet can distinguish a case of coonhound paralysis from other disorders.
Although there isn't a specific medication available to treat coonhound paralysis, almost all dogs can be treated successfully. For mild to moderate cases, treatment incolves a combination of vigilant nursing care and physiotherapy. If a dog is suffering from severe respiatory distress as a result of paralysis, hospitalization and breathing support will be required. Sometimes, fluid therapy is needed if a dog is dehydrated and unable to drink normally. Care at home will involve hand-feeding and prolonged bed rest. Dogs will need a heavily padded bed and should be turned frequently to prevent pressure sores. The area must also be kept clean of urine or fecal matter to prevent associated scalding and bacterial infections. Basic physical therapy eercises will need to be performed at home to prevent muscle atrophy. This will involve gentle stretching of each of a dog's limbs; a vet will demonstrate the exact procedures for a pet owner. Pet massage and swiming therapy have also been proven eddective for dogs recovering from coonhound procedures for a pet owner. On the whole, prognosis for coonhound paralysis is very good. Most does erecover fully over the course of several weeks or month and some even recover spontaneously, In rare cases, dogs never completly recover and may require supportive care indefinitely.