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Research Lab – Department of Clinical Sciences 

Canine Spinal Cord Injury Program

The Canine Spinal Cord Injury Program is developing and testing methods of improving outcome from both incomplete and complete spinal cord injuries in dogs. Our efforts include:

  • limiting nerve injury
  • restoring function to damaged nerves
  • optimizing rehabilitation
  • controlling pain

NC State University's Dr. Natasha Olby works with a colleage at the University's College of Veterinary Medicine. Photo by Marc Hall/NC State University


The spinal cord conveys information to and from the brain to produce movement, sensation, urination, and defecation. Spinal cord injuries are a common problem in dogs, accounting for approximately 2% of all cases that present to the veterinarian. The consequences of spinal cord injury include weakness or paralysis, pain and incontinence. Our program is interested in three different areas, the first is traumatic injury to the spinal cord, the second is more chronic degenerative injuries including neurodegenerative diseases comparable to ALS, and the third is disorders that produce pain syndromes.

Injury is most commonly caused by a disc herniation, trauma, spinal stenosis and instability, and vascular (stroke like) events. Spinal cord tissue does not regenerate effectively and therefore the consequences of an injury can be devastating. Dogs can make an excellent recovery after injury if the damage to the spinal cord is partial (incomplete) because the surviving nerves are able to take over the function of the nerves that have been lost. However, the more severe the injury, the less effective the recovery, and complete injuries, that result in transection of the spinal cord, thus cutting off all communications between the spinal cord and the brain, result in permanent paralysis.

The Laboratory is part of the Neurology program at NC State Veterinary Medicine. In addition to providing specialized neurological care to patients of the NC State Veterinary Hospital, faculty train veterinary students interesting in specializing in the field of veterinary neurology.

This dog is unable to move her hind limbs at all – this complete loss of motor function in the hind limbs is called paraplegia.

This dogs moves her hind limbs a little on her own, but is unable to bear weight on them. When given weight support (by tail holding in this video), you can see that her hind limbs are able to move. This is known as non-ambulatory paraparesis.

This dog can bear weight and walk on both hind limbs, but he is weak (he is shifting his weight forwards) and ataxic (his hind limbs are uncoordinated). This is known as ambulatory paraparesis.


Ataxia simply means an uncoordinated gait. This dog can walk with good strength, but her hind limbs cross and overstep. She has hind limb ataxia.

Canine Paralympics

The annual NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine Canine Paralympics raises awareness of spinal cord injury in dogs, and celebrates how dogs can live happily despite a severe spinal cord injury. Learn more about this event and the progress we’re making in treating canine spinal chord injury by following us on Facebook.

     Follow us and find out about what’s coming up and how to get involved!

You can make a difference! Make a tax-deductible donation to the Canine Spinal Cord Injury Program – by clicking the button below (please select the “Other” option and indicate the name of the “Spinal Cord Injury” in your gift).

Support Our Research 

    • Potassium channel antagonists 4-aminopyridine and the T-butyl carbamate derivative of 4-aminopyridine improve hind limb function in chronically non-ambulatory dogs; a blinded, placebo-controlled trial.
      Lim JH, Muguet-Chanoit AC, Smith DT, Laber E, Olby NJ   |   PLoS One. 2014 Dec 31;9(12):e116139. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0116139. eCollection 2014
    • Advances in veterinary neurology.
      Olby NJ, Jeffery ND | Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 2014 Nov;44(6):xi-xii. doi: 10.1016/j.cvsm.2014.08.001. Epub 2014 Sep 22
    • Gait scoring in dogs with thoracolumbar spinal cord injuries when walking on a treadmill.
      Olby NJ, Lim JH, Babb K, Bach K, Domaracki C, Williams K, Griffith E, Harris T, Muguet-Chanoit A  | BMC Vet Res. 2014 Mar 5;10:58. doi: 10.1186/1746-6148-10-58  
    • Intervertebral disk degeneration in dogs: consequences, diagnosis, treatment, and future directions.
      Jeffery ND, Levine JM, Olby NJ, Stein VM  | J Vet Intern Med. 2013 Nov-Dec;27(6):1318-33. doi: 10.1111/jvim.12183. Epub 2013 Sep 6. Review 
    • Alternating current electric fields of varying frequencies: effects on proliferation and differentiation of porcine neural progenitor cells.
      Lim JH, McCullen SD, Piedrahita JA, Loboa EG, Olby NJ  | Cell Reprogram. 2013 Oct;15(5):405-12. doi: 10.1089/cell.2013.0001. Epub 2013 Aug 20
    • Long-term effect of cervical distraction and stabilization on neurological status and imaging findings in giant breed dogs with cervical stenotic myelopathy.
      Lewis M, Olby NJ, Sharp NJ, Early P  | Vet Surg. 2013 Aug;42(6):701-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-950X.2013.12034.x. Epub 2013 Jul 25
    • Assessment of cord dorsum potentials from caudal nerves in anesthetized clinically normal adult dogs without or during neuromuscular blockade.
      Campbell JO, Olby NJ, Hash JA, Lascelles BD  | Am J Vet Res. 2013 Apr;74(4):616-20. doi: 10.2460/ajvr.74.4.616 
    • Isolation and characterization of neural progenitor cells from adult canine brains.
      Lim JH, Koh S, Olby NJ, Piedrahita J, Mariani CL  | Am J Vet Res. 2012 Dec;73(12)
    • Growth requirements and chromosomal instability of induced pluripotent stem cells generated from adult canine fibroblasts.
      Koh S, Thomas R, Tsai S, Bischoff S, Lim JH, Breen M, Olby NJ, Piedrahita JA  | Stem Cells Dev. 2013 Mar 15;22(6):951-63. doi: 10.1089/scd.2012.0393. Epub 2012 Nov 28
    • The cutaneous trunci muscle reflex: a predictor of recovery in dogs with acute thoracolumbar myelopathies.
      Muguet-Chanoit AC, Olby NJ, Lim J-H, Gallagher R, Niman Z, Dillard S, Campbell J, Early P, Mariani C, Munana KR, Freeman C, Platt SR, Kent M, Giovenella C, Longshore R  | Vet Surg. 2011 Dec 8. [Epub ahead of print]
    • The sensory field and repeatability of the cutaneous trunci muscle reflex in the dog.
      Muguet-Chanoit AC, Olby NJ, Babb K, Lim J-H, Gallagher R, Niman Z, Dillard S, Campbell J  | Vet Surg 2011; 40: 781–785
    • The pathogenesis and treatment of acute spinal cord injuries in dogs.
      Olby NJ  | Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 2010;40(5):791-80 
    • Prevalence of Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs Following Surgery for Thoracolumbar Intervertebral Disc Extrusion.
      Olby NJ, Mackillop E, Cerda-Gonzalez S, Moore S, Munana KR, Grafinger M, Osborne JA, Vaden S  | J Vet Int Med. 2010;24:1106-11 
    • Generation and characterization of neurospheres from canine adipose tissue-derived stromal cells
      Lim, J-H, Mariani CL, Piedrahita JA, Olby NJ  | Cellular Reprogram. 2010;12(4):417-25 
    • Pharmacokinetics of 4-Aminopyridine Derivatives in Dogs.
      Olby NJ, Smith DT, Humphrey J, Spinapolice K, Parke N, Mehta PM, Dise D, Papich M  | PLoS One. 2014 Dec 31;9(12):e116139. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0116139. eCollection 2014.
    • Management of acute spinal cord injuries.
      Kube S, Olby NJ  | Comp Cont Ed Vet Med. 2008;30:496-504
    • Recovery of pelvic limb function in dogs following acute intervertebral disc herniations
      Olby, N.J. Harris, T., Burr, J., Muñana, K.R., Sharp, N.J.H. & Keene, B  | J Neurotrauma 2004;21:49-59.
    • Long term functional outcome of dogs with severe thoracolumbar spinal cord injuries.
      Olby, N.J., Harris T., Muñana, K., Skeen, T., & Sharp, N.J.H  | J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003; 222:762-769.
    • Development of a functional scoring system in dogs with acute spinal cord injuries.
      Olby NJ, DeRisio L, Muñana K, Wosar M, Skeen T, Sharp NJH, Keene BW |  Am J Vet Res 2001;62:1624-1628.
    • The computed tomographic appearance of acute thoracolumbar intervertebral disc herniations.
      Olby NJ, Munaña KR, Sharp NJH, Thrall DG | Vet Rad US. 2000;41,396-402


    Ongoing Studies

    • Levine GJ (Co-PI), Olby NJ (co-PI), Meurs K, Levine J, Grossman R. Mapping of Chromosomal Loci Associated with Injury Severity and Locomotor Recovery Following Acute Spinal Cord Injury in the Dachshund dog. Funded by Mission Connect
    • Olby NJ (co-PI), Gunderson S (co-PI). Silencing the Canine SOD1 Gene in Dog Central Nervous System for Treatment of Degenerative Myelopathy. Funded by the Finding the Cure for DM Foundation


    Julia Medland, 2019

    Graham Rossi, 2020