Do you know the leading causes of back problems in dogs? It is an important matter for pet parents to know because health issues of the spine are common in many breeds. These conditions can be painful for your dog and progress to hind end weakness, paralysis and sometimes death.
Here are the leading causes of back problems in dogs.
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)
Whether you call it a slipped disc, ruptured, herniated or prolapsed disc, IVDD is the most common back problem in dogs. The spinal cord has 26 donut-shaped jelly masses in- between each disc. They act as shock absorbers to protect your dog when she jumps, runs and moves around. When this material is dislodged or leaks, it can bring on sudden intense pain to your dog and even cause paralysis. Canine Disc Disease can occur after an injury as minimal as jumping off a bed to a trauma like being hit by a car. Some breeds such as Poodles, Beagles, Basset Hounds, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, and Corgis are prone, as well as middle-aged and overweight pups. Pet owners will be able to recognize this back problem because of the severe pain and sudden onset.
This is a narrowing of the spinal cord from degeneration over time or from a birth defect. Spinal Stenosis puts an increasing amount of pressure on spine. Some dogs will feel pain when this happens while others will not. Sensitivity will depend on which part of the spine is narrowing. The first signs an owner may see are a limp, difficulty raising a tail, a tail that won’t wag or incontinence. The early signs resemble old age symptoms and sometimes go undiagnosed. In many cases, surgery can alleviate Spinal Stenosis.
Tumors in the spine can happen at any age, but most dogs are large breeds that are at least 3 years-old. While there are various types of tumors that can develop most are seen in German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. The first signs that an owners sees may be very subtle such as a limp or an unsteady gait. About 1/3 of the tumors grow on the nerve of the spinal cord and attack the cells that make the connection between the brain and the body. Unfortunately the outcome for this type of tumor is poor. Tumors that grow in the bone or inside the nerve root have a slightly better prognosis, provided they are not malignant.
While this disease of the spinal cord is not as common, it has a special interest and place in my heart. Sophie was tested for this disease with a DNA test. It came back inconclusive, but I’ve always wondered if she ultimately suffered from DM. Degenerative Myelopathy (and there are other types of myelopathies) is a progressive disease in older dogs between 8 and 14 years of age. DM occurs when the outer layer of the insulation in the spinal cord begins to strip away and die. The disease is caused by a mutated gene. Owners with DM dogs see their dogs wobble when they walk, knuckle and drag their hind feet and finally become paralyzed. The dog is not in pain from the disease, but many DM dogs have phantom pain in their legs that is similar to an amputated limb. Eventually all four limbs are affected. The disease is only confirmed through a necropsy.
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