Back Problems

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Filed in Dogs, Health

Degenerative disc disease is the most common cause of chronic back problems in both dogs and humans.

Dogs with backs that are very long, compared to the length of their legs, are especially prone. Breeds that often suffer from disc disease include dachshunds, Pekinese, miniature poodles, cocker spaniels and beagles.

The backbones (vertebrae) are cushioned from each other by discs made of material that is the consistency of crabmeat. When this disc material gets pushed out and puts pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves, it is called a slipped disc or a ruptured disc.

The result of a ruptured disc usually is soreness, pain and instability of the back. Other symptoms include weakness, lack of coordination, loss of feeling and inability to move. In extreme cases, complete paralysis, total collapse or loss of bladder functions can result.

Nerves of the spinal cord must be able to carry messages both to and from the animal's brain. The extruded disc material puts pressure on the nerves and interferes with nerve transmission.

Urgent medical care is required. Your veterinarian can judge the degree of injury to the nerves during the physical exam. X-rays probably will be necessary.

In many cases, restricted activity and appropriate doses of aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medication can control the discomfort. However, if there is any loss of the feeling in a foot or leg in addition to back pain when your pet moves, the spinal cord injury probably is severe and the chance for recovery is poor.

Surgery can relieve the pressure on the spinal cord if the damage is not extensive. A veterinary neurologist should be consulted when possible.

Source: Ask the Vet, reprinted with permission by Pet Food Express. Ask the Vet is published by Veterinarian's Best, Inc., PO Box 4459, Santa Barbara, CA, 93103.

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