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What is Fracture of the Spine?

Often pets who present with spinal fractures are also at risk of other life-threatening conditions such as internal hemorrhage as a result of the trauma that caused the spinal fracture. If you suspect your dog may be suffering from a spinal fracture, it is vital you contact a veterinarian immediately.

Fracture of the spine in dogs can occur following trauma such as attack from another animal, fall, or a following a road traffic incident. Following the trauma, it is common for neurological deterioration over hours or days after. Spinal fractures can result in varied severity of symptoms, from pain to complete paralysis.

Fracture of the Spine Average Cost

From 459 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $15,000

Average Cost

$10,000

Symptoms of Fracture of the Spine in Dogs

  • Pain on the spine
  • Other evidence of trauma (shredded nails in the occurrence of vehicular collision or bite wounds from attack)
  • Spinal hyperesthesia
  • Signs of pain
  • Reduced appetite 
  • Inability or reluctance to walk
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Causes of Fracture of the Spine in Dogs

The spinal cord is protected by the vertebrae; impact that crushes or changes this structure can lead to spinal cord injury. Although the occurrence of this injury is acute, secondary damage often occurs in the 24 - 48 hour time frame following the trauma, and in some cases damage can continue months to years after. Spinal fractures are more common in young dogs who lack in road sense and intact  males which may be more likely to wander due to mating urge.

Causes of spinal fractures may be:

  • Road traffic accidents 
  • Gunshot injury 
  • Fall from height
  • Animal attack, small dogs are known to present with spinal fractures after being shaken by the neck by larger dogs
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Diagnosis of Fracture of the Spine in Dogs

Due to the potential of the presence of other life-threatening conditions your veterinarian will carefully examine your dog's:

  • Respiratory and heart rate and rhythm
  • Capillary refill times and peripheral perfusion
  • Ability to mobilize and react to pain sensation, particularly lower limbs
  • Mental capacity and consciousness

Your veterinarian will assess your pet’s well-being, if respiratory or cardiovascular distress are apparent the initial focus will be to stabilize these systems. Your veterinarian will discuss your pet’s clinical history with you, if you witnessed the incident that caused the injury, when it occurred, and your pet’s behavior following the trauma. 

Radiographs will be performed to visualize your pet’s spinal column, it may be possible for these to be performed while he is awake, however sedation is necessary in some cases. Magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography may also be utilized to check for other lesions or soft tissue conditions.

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Treatment of Fracture of the Spine in Dogs

The initial treatment for your dog will be stabilization. If respiratory distress or cardiovascular distress are present intravenous fluids, oxygen and appropriate medications may be necessary. 

To provide pain relief your pet will likely be given opiate analgesia. His bladder function will be carefully monitored following spinal injury, during in-patient care your pet’s bedding will be assessed for signs of urinary incontinence and his bladder palpated to determine if your dog is effectively emptying his bladder. If your dog is unable to control urination, manual expression will be required to prevent further complications.

Non-surgical Treatment

Your veterinarian may recommend non-surgical treatment for your pet which may require cage confinement and exercise restriction for 6-8 weeks. Your veterinarian may choose to utilize external support bandages to provide spinal stability, it is vital in these cases that this is kept clean and dry.

Surgical Treatment

Your pet may require surgical treatment to stabilize his spine, this is considered the most effective technique with the most common types of internal fixation being metal screws, wires, and pins. 

Nursing Care

In either surgical or non-surgical treatment nursing care is essential to support your pet’s recovery. The following steps should be taken:

  • Soft, water-proof bedding should be provided and regularly changed to prevent urine scalding and prevent bed sores
  • Your dog should be regularly turned to prevent bed sores and atelectasis – your veterinarian should regularly auscultate your pet’s lungs 
  • Highly palatable foods should be given to encourage nutrition
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Recovery of Fracture of the Spine in Dogs

To aid your companion’s recovery the following steps may be taken:

  • Provide a safe non-slip area for your pet to resume walking and provide assistance as needed, slings to provide support may be necessary
  • Therapy such as physiotherapy, acupuncture and hydrotherapy may be beneficial for your pet’s recovery
  • Wound care as needed if surgery has taken place

Your pet should regularly revisit the veterinarian for follow up evaluations, in some cases repeat radiographs may be necessary. Following healing, your veterinarian will discuss exercising your pet, it is vital that this is done gradually with careful attention paid to how your pet is tolerating this. 

A canine who has suffered from a spinal fracture often has a guarded prognosis. During initial examination the presence or absence of sensation may indicate prognosis, unfortunately for those pets that do not experience deep pain sensation the chance of recovery is poor. For dogs who demonstrate sensation, urinary and bowel continence and ability to mobilize, improvement 4 - 6 weeks following the trauma may be seen.

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Fracture of the Spine Average Cost

From 459 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $15,000

Average Cost

$10,000

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Fracture of the Spine Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Maltese Shih Tzu

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Eight Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Broken Back And Pelvis

Dog hit by car - has broken vertebrae and pelvis . Unsure of quality of life , recovery, etc

Aug. 2, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello So sorry to hear about your dog. Many times dogs with a broken back need emergency surgery to stabilize this area. This can be very costly and still may have a very poor prognosis. Talk to your vet about your dog's condition and if it can be repaired so that your dog has a good quality of life.

Aug. 2, 2020

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Shitzu poodle

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Seven Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing

Our beloved 3 lb shitzupoodle passed away suddenly 2 days ago. We were on on of our favorite weekly pond walks, when she jumped out of my arms (like she has done many times before) and must have landed wrong. She laid on her side wagging her tail, I tried to help her to her feet but she couldn’tstand, she was alert for only a moment more than I saw her eyes get big and she was gone- just like that. So fast.😪 I think she must have broken her neck? Maybe hemorrhage to her brain? I just can’t believe it happened with such a common occurrence. I can’t stop replaying it in my mind and try to unders

July 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear about the loss of your dog. They can break their neck or spine if they land wrong. This is usually very quick and painless. Again I am so sorry about the loss of your precious baby.

July 26, 2020

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Luna

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German Shepherd

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4 Months

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Urinating Outside Litterbox
No Eating
Urinating In House
No Wal

My 4.5 month old German Shepherd got knocked by car, she improved gradually for 1.5 weeks after her incidenty but stopped eating and attempting to walk 2 days ago. She's been urinating in her kennel and she hasn't been responding to our calls or attempts to h her. Since it's the weekend, the vet's offices are closed. We've been trying to exercise her legs but she can't stay up for too long. What steps can we take to improve her condition

Aug. 5, 2018

Luna's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

If Luna is not responding to you, isn't walking and is urinating in her kennel, she should probably be seen by a veterinarian, and you may need to find an emergency clinic or 24 hour clinic that you can take her to. Your veterinary clinic may have an after hours number listed on their answering machine if you call the clinic. I hope that she is okay.

Aug. 5, 2018

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Evan

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Poodle

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6 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Neck Fracture

My 6 year old poodle was bitte and shaken by the neck by a bigger dog. Xrays showed that he fractured 3 bones in his neck and bones are misaligned which cause his head to bend to one side and he is unable to move or carry himself up. His head trembles whenhe isnt laying on his side. Somwtimes he will jerk his head and it looks like he is barking but without sound. He is also unable to control his bladder. The vet told me that he has a ver low chance of recovery and only adviced physio for him and medication including painkiller. He is only able to slightly move his left front leg. Very slightly. Will physio alone help? Will he be able to recover at all?

July 17, 2018

Evan's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

It sounds very unlikely that Evan will recover from the type of trauma that you have described, sadly. Physical therapy may help keep his muscles supple, but that won't help with his nerve damage. I'm sorry that happened to him, that is very sad.

July 17, 2018

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Duckie

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Chiahuahu

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4 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Injury See Above
Injury See Above,

My chihuahua got grabbed hard onby my 7mo old Shepard the neck neck near ear. Now he keeps crying if I touch anywhere from neck and jaw area. He keeps shaking his head with his ear held low. He's still active, but chokes and crys when he drinks water. Could his neck b broken?

July 14, 2018

Duckie's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

Without examining Duckie I cannot determine the severity of the bite he received; there are a lot of structures around the throat along with nerves etc… which may cause issues when damaged. You should keep both dogs separated and take Duckie to your Veterinarian for a thorough examination especially since he is choking when drinking water. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 14, 2018

My puppy (yorkie crossed with pikeneese) is almost a year old and was bit by a much bigger dog. I took gim to the vet and they gave me pain medication and some other medication. I notice that he is in much pain as he cant really get up to switch sides he lays on then he starts crying. He gor bit earlier today. I want to know how long it will take for him to recover and what I can do to limit the pain as much as possible.

Aug. 3, 2018

Billindi D.


My poodle, Sushi, was injured by a large dog when she was only 5 months old. Her back was broken and she cannot use her rear legs to walk. We also have to put a diaper on her as she cannot control her bowel functions. We bought a doggie wheelchair and she does well with that and is very active. This happened about three years ago, Is it possible that she will walk normally again? Thanks. Mike

July 29, 2018

Mike C.


Ok thank you I'm taking him in today

July 14, 2018

Duckie's Owner

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Storm

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Dachshund and Hound Mix

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1 Year

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Fractured Vertebrae

We are thinking of adopting a dog who has a fractured vertebrae (the last one near his tail). We have been told that it cannot be fixed. He also isn't in pain. What is the type of vet care we would need to provide for this dog? Would he require more vet attention? Will this ingury cause other medical issues as he gets older? Any advice is greatly appreciated!

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Sophie

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Cocker Spaniel

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6 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Paralysis

Sophie is 6 yr old active cocker spaniel. No known injury but about 1 week ago did act like her leg was bothering her. It resolved by that evening so thought she over did it when I was throwing ball for her to chase. A few days later in then morning when I went to let her out to potty she had a hard time getting up and whined. Only got up when had to potty, with difficulty and cried each time. Took her to vet. Said she had pilled muscle. Gave her flexeril and gabapentin. By that night time she wouldnt get up at all and cried most of night. Was still crying next day. Meds didn’t seem to be helping Took her to ER was told she had fractured vertebrae L4 L5. Likely $7,000 for surgery. I lost my job. Have used all my savings and don’t qualify for enough credit. They gave me prednisone but said I had to wait 36 hrs for flexeril to get out of system as they didn’t mix. I am trying to raise funds for surgery and keep her immobilized in the interim. I have been putting diapers on her but now I’m concerned that perhaps putting them on and on I’m jeopardizing the stability of her spinal column. Should I not use them. What should I do about pot Tying?

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Terror

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Chihuahua

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4 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

Last Tuesday our chihuahua terrier started showing lameness in his back right leg. We took him to the vet Thursday and they told us he had a compacted vertebrae, sent him hhome with a muscle relaxer and sent us home. And said he should be ok within 4-5 days. We are on day 5 and he started limping on his leg again. Should I get a second opinion

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Kurochan

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lab pit

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Knuckling, Incontinence

I adopted a dog a couple of hours before scheduled euthanasia at a high-kill Texas shelter. He was boarded for a month before transported to the east coast. No one mentioned his leg mobility problem (slipping on smooth surfaces) - was xrayed and a bullet was found in his T4 vertebra. I’ve researched how vertebra correspond to different body parts and I don’t see a correspondence to back legs, but that’s his issue. Can’t do MRI because of the bullet/magnetic metal. I was told not to remove the bullet because it could make it worse. Should I go to an orthopedic specialist? Also, I’m having problems housebreaking him, not with the peeing but with the pooping. I don’t correct him too much because it may be out of his control. Is it likely that a T4 injury would cause incontinence?

Fracture of the Spine Average Cost

From 459 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $15,000

Average Cost

$10,000

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