Back Problems In Dogs

Tuesday, August 14, 2018 | 


A Word From Dr. Joyce Ashamalla

Just like humans, some dogs will experience back problems at some point in their life. Dog spine problems can range from a slipped disc to other serious conditions, and pain caused by these back problems in dogs can happen regardless of the size or breed. However, some dogs that have longer backs such as Corgi’s, Basset Hounds and Dachshunds can be at higher risk for back issues and pain.

Unfortunately, our pups cannot tell us when their backs hurt, so it’s up to us to understand all the possible causes and symptoms to determine if a trip to the vet is in order.

Back Problems In Dogs


Conditions That Cause Back Pain Symptoms in Dogs

The most common types of back problems in dogs or dog spine problems that cause pain include:

  • • Intervertebral disc disease – A breakdown of the cushioning discs that are found in between the bones of the vertebrae (spine). 
  • • Arthritis – A condition where the animal’s joints are inflamed, causing stiffness & loss of mobility.  
  • • Spondylosis – A condition involving degeneration or otherwise known as wear and tear of the spinal column. 
  • • Stenosis – A condition whereby the spinal canal becomes more narrow and compresses the cord and nerves.
  • • Cancer – Tumors can develop and grow on the vertebrae or soft tissues, which can cause severe dog spine problems. 
  • • Meningitis – A disease involving the inflammation of membranes, which can lead to serious dog spine problems.  
  • • Benign fasciculation syndrome – a nerve disorder that causes twitching or dog muscle spasms.

Dog Back Pain Symptoms

Animals can sometimes hide the fact that they are in pain, but here are some dog back pain symptoms that will give you an indication that your pet could be suffering: 

  • • Unusual vocalizations – If you spot whining, or your dog yelps when touched or whimpers, it’s time to see the vet.
  • • Endless grooming of a certain spot – Dogs in pain sometimes will lick themselves in a certain area constantly in the attempt to self soothe and heal themselves.  
  • • Change in habits – Watch for an alteration in eating, drinking or sleeping habits. Dogs in pain may sleep more as a way to heal or because it’s harder to be active. 
  • • Isolation behavior or seeking more attention – These symptoms seem to be behavioral opposites, but some dogs will stay away from you more (or even be aggressive) while in pain. On the other hand, some will try to get more attention from their humans in the attempt to be comforted.
  • • Unusual Breathing – If you find your dog is panting or breathing heavily without exercising, this can be a sign that pain is present.   
  • • Restlessness – Dogs in pain often can’t find the right position to lay down or sit without discomfort.  
  • • Arched Back and Other Behaviors – If your dog arches his back or no longer wants to jump and climb the stairs, these could be indications of pain. In addition, some dogs who are suffering will be reluctant to move their head up/down or side to side.
  • • Knuckling Paws – If you see your dog dragging the top of her paw on the ground, seek medical help right away. This could be an indication of severe pain. 

How You Can Help Your Beloved Pet

As loving pet owners, we never want to even think about our dogs being in pain. There are a number of ways that we can help the animals in our lives get some relief and comfort: 

  • • See the Vet – First and foremost, if you detect that your dog is even in the slightest amount of pain, get to the vet right away. As we have discussed, there are a variety of reasons that your animal could be in pain, and if it’s something serious such as an extruded disc, it needs to be treated within 12 hours to regain full motor function or your pet may be permanently paralyzed. Your vet can diagnose the problem and work with you on a treatment/solution. 
  • • Watch their Weight – Like humans, dogs that carry excessive weight or are obese suffer back pain much more than leaner animals. Be sure to keep your dog’s weight at a normal level for their size, age and breed.
  • • Joint Supplements – For some conditions that cause back pain, there are supplements such as glucosamine & chondroitin that can provide some relief.  
  • • Other Medicine – Sometimes vets will use anti-inflammatory medication or relaxers to help animals who suffer from back pain or dog muscle spasms. Be sure to work closely with your vet on this course of treatment.
  • • Surgery – Depending on the condition, sometimes a surgical procedure can relieve or eliminate back pain issues. Your vet will be able to advise you if such a course of treatment is advisable.  

When it comes to back problems and pain in dogs, time can be of the essence. Waiting too long to take any action to address the pain issue can reduce the solution options. If you see that your dog has muscle spasms, arches its back or any other kind of symptoms, get to the vet right away. As loving pet owners, we owe it to our dogs to help them lead a healthy and comfortable life.