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Spinal problems – a common problem with dogs

The spine is made up of little individual bones called vertebrae, and in between those bones are ‘shock absorbers’ called discs. These discs are made from a material that is relatively soft and can expand and contract as the vertebrae move so that the spine can bend in all directions.

With age, these discs become less resilient, more fibrous, rigid and brittle.

Under pressure from your dog moving or jumping, the disc may rupture upward to put pressure on the spinal cord.

This causes acute symptoms of back pain and varying severity of signs from mild leg weaknesses to complete paralysis.

If the disc degenerates slowly, then the symptoms appear more slowly. These symptoms can take months to appear and the owner often contributes the symptoms to ‘getting old’ or ‘arthritis’. Both beliefs are wrong.

So what are the typical signs if your dog’s disc ruptures fast:

  • wobbly in the legs
  • weakness or paralysis of the legs
  • a tense and rigid abdomen or neck
  • reluctance to move

What if the rupture occurs over a longer period?

If this happens then your dog will show the following symptoms:

  • trouble getting up after laying down
  • not wanting to jump
  • not wanting to climb stairs
  • not wanting to run or play
  • walking with a hunched back
  • ‘slowing down’
  • and in some cases urinary incontinence

The only way that we can access the damage and give the owner some form of appropriate treatment and prognosis is to take x-rays of the spine

It is important that treatment is instigated as soon as possible to assess the damage and to minimise further degeneration to the disc or to the cord.

This treatment may involve anti-inflammatory tablets or injections, hospitalisation, chiropractors (which a member of our staff is qualified to do), acupuncture or even surgery in extreme cases.

But, the most important part is to start treatment as soon as possible

Once the nerve cells of the spinal cord are damaged then there is a good chance that the damage will become permanent. There is only a small window of opportunity to get the animal back to good health and if you want the animal to recover you must act fast

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