Although there can be substantial spontaneous improvements in functional status after a spinal cord injury, therapeutic intervention is desirable in many patients to improve the degree of recovery. At present only decompressive surgery and the neuroprotective drug methylprednisolone sodium succinate are effective and in widespread clinical use. There are limitations to the efficacy of these therapies in some clinical cases and they cannot restore satisfactory functional status to all patients. Many drugs have been investigated experimentally to assess their potential to preserve injured tissue and promote functional recovery in clinically relevant settings, and several of them would be suitable for assessment in future veterinary clinical trials. In addition, experimental techniques designed to mould the response of the CNS to injury, by the promotion of axonal regeneration across the lesion and the encouragement of local sprouting of undamaged axons, have recently been successful, suggesting that effective therapy for even very severe spinal cord injury may soon be available.