How can I help my dog with back problems? Expert Advice

Unfortunately, our dogs are unable to tell us if they have injured themselves or are in any pain. As such, it is down to us as responsible and observant owners to recognize the signs that something may be wrong.

Many owners don’t realize that playing tug-of-war with your furry friend can actually place a great deal of strain on his back. Your dog will not only pull the toy towards him, but he will also excitedly twist and turn while leaping about, which could cause him to injure his back. Instead, opt for fetching games which put much less stress on his spine.

Although there is no guarantee that you can completely prevent back problems in your dog, there are some things that you can do that may reduce the likelihood of them occurring.

Unfortunately, some breeds of dog are more likely to develop a condition known as Intervertebral Disc Disease – or IVDD – which causes mild to extreme back pain. In IVDD, the discs that cushion the spine degenerate which causes pain. Breeds of dogs who have a genetic predisposition to this condition include Dachshunds, Bulldogs, Corgis, King Charles Spaniels, Pugs, Bassett Hounds, Pekingese, Shih Tzus, and Beagles.

To know more about how to take care of your furry companion, contact Best Pets Veterinary Hospital today.

Signs and symptoms of back pain in dogs

It is vital to detect your dog’s back pain early to remedy it as soon as possible. Here’s how to know if your dog has back pain:

  • Having a stiff, hunched position
  • Experiencing mobility problems such as limping, dragging, and overall lack of control and coordination
  • Shaking legs or muscle spasms
  • Showing signs of pain (crying, barking) when back is touched
  • Displaying mood or behavioral changes
  • Exhibiting loss of appetite
  • Visible marks of trauma (e.g. bruises, scratch marks)
  • If your dog shows any of these signs and symptoms, it’s best to consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.

    Physical and neurological examinations are performed to locate the source of pain and to test your dog’s neurological reflexes. They could also request for spinal x-rays or CT or MRI scans for a more accurate diagnosis.

    Medical Treatment Options for Canine Spinal Pain

    Medical treatment of spinal pain is decided in the context of likely cause, any concurrent systemic diseases, and severity of signs. In general, a combination approach of anti-inflammatory drugs, C-fiber modulation therapy, narcotic therapy, activity restriction and complimentary therapy can be used.

    Back Problems in Dogs: How to Treat At Home

    How to manage spinal pain in dogs can be a difficult dilemma for veterinarians. Spinal pain in dogs is a common presenting complaint by owners that can be nebulous in origin yet indicative of a potentially serious, impending neurologic catastrophic event. Similar to the tip of the iceberg analogy, what presents as simple focal spinal pain without neurologic episodes can quickly progress to disastrous ship-sinking changes in mobility and paralysis.

    Management of spinal pain in dogs starts with a thorough physical and neurologic exam, knowledge of possible differential diagnoses, appropriate diagnostic testing, proper pain management, conveyance of exercise restriction to owner, and ultimately, expedient decision making for referral for advanced diagnostic testing and treatment.

    Sources of spinal pain include diseases affecting the vertebra, meninges, nerve root, disk and changes in intracranial pressure. The differential diagnoses of spinal pain can be categorized according to signalment, onset of signs (acute or be more progressive), focality (focal, multi-focal, or diffuse), location of signs. (Table 1).

    Treatment is then based on decision making algorithm that to either pursue empirical medical management or to pursue advanced diagnostic testing, such as MRI scan and/or CSF collection and analysis. (Figure 1) The purpose of advanced testing is to provide additional treatment options (eg surgery) or to rule-out more serious non-surgical diseases (e.g. meningitis and neoplasia).

    The decision to pursue empirical medical management is based on a number of factors. In general, chondrodystrophic breeds that are younger, with acute onset of focal spinal pain and normal physical and neurologic exam are more likely to have a disk-related pain. Some of these cases may present with vague signs of lethargy, tense abdomen and decreased appetite that could mimic abdominal related problems.

    Typically the lack of any vomiting or diarrhea is a clue that abdominal disease is not the cause. Older non-chondrodystrophic dogs should be evaluate for possible bone related neoplasia of the spine with radiographs prior to decision on medical management or MRI scan of the spine. Younger dogs with cervical pain and/or multifocal spinal pain with or without other neurologic signs should be assessed for infectious or immune-mediated meningitis with MRI scan and/or CSF analysis.