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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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Evan

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Poodle

dog-age-icon

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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0 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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1 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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Lincoln

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French Bulldog

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11 Months

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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Tired
Lazy

My dog was in a car accident where the car hit the side of his head. Everytime he moves his heard really fast or jumps of my bed he will yelp. Could he possibly have a really serious issue? He eats well drinks well and uses the bathroom fine,but he doesn't have as much energy. What's wrong?

May 13, 2018

Lincoln's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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If Lincoln was hit by a car on the side of his head, that is a very traumatic injury, and he could have a serious injury to his head, neck, spine, or brain. I'm not sure how long ago this occurred, but it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine him and recommend any testing or treatment that might be needed. I hope that he is okay.

May 13, 2018

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Ivy

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Weimaraner

dog-age-icon

12 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Falling Over

Hi I have a 12 year old Weimarainer who underwent a front leg amputation a year and a half ago. Has been doing well. Now having acute episodes of falling to to ground, back legs seem to buckle panting and trembling after getting off the couch. Other times back legs widely spread. There does not seem to bed any issue with her front leg or joint. Currently on NSAID. Her lower back along the spine seemed to have a spot after and episode yesterday. Otherwise fine in between the episodes. No pain or weakness. I think its her spine that is the problem. Would a regular X-ray show a defect/fracture.

April 9, 2018

Ivy's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

I'm not sure if an x-ray would identify the problem for her, or if she may need an MRI. A visit to your veterinarian would be a good place to start, as they will be able to examine her, do a good neurologic exam, and determine if further testing is necessary or if treatment based on her signs is possible. I hope that she is okay.

April 9, 2018

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Anjolee

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Japanese Chin

dog-age-icon

2 years

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Vertebrae were pined and cement added. No trauma of any kind but after 3 1/2 weeks and being able to walk cement fractured. Another surgery is scheduled for tomorrow to possibly add more pins and take out old cement and add more. Our baby just turned 2 and is a 6lb 4 oz Japanese Chin. She has responded well to the pain meds and steroids while in hospital these last two days. Even stood up and took s step. Dr is amazed at that but he is concerned her bones are small and cement not adhering. She can now move head both ways and isn’t in a curled position. What other options do we have. Don’t want her in pain, but don’t want to lose her

Nov. 27, 2017

Anjolee's Owner


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1 Recommendations

The specific type and location of fracture would vary the approach taken, sometimes fixation with plates or screws only is required where as other cases require more detailed fixation. With this, with one failed surgery already, I would recommend you consult an Orthopaedic Surgeon for their opinion on this case for further guidance and may save costs in the long term by shortening the number of surgeries required. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Nov. 28, 2017

Thank you so much for the advice. Anjolee is having surgery this morning and I will speak to her neurologist about this. What would an orthopedic specialist be able to do? Sincerely, Mrs Webber

Nov. 28, 2017

Anjolee's Owner


Dr Turner, Anjolee surgery went well. I questioned about an orthopedic being involved and was happy to hear the orthopedic Dr was called in during her first surgery. This second surgery went better and differently than expected. Longer screws were put in even though there wasn’t any shifting or trauma to the the existing ones. Flexible mesh/wire was also added as reinforcement, and of old cement removed and new added. We notice this time that she still has the flexibility of her head and neck, but, she isn’t wobbly like she was after first surgery. We brought her home yesterday after 2 days, she is doing very well. Needless to say we will be taking this recovery very slowly. I Thought 2 1/2 weeks was way to soon to be walking her on anything, let alone going potty on grass. We know she can walk and keeping her confined to crate or our laps for at least 4 weeks makes more sense to us. Thank you again, Anjolee’s mom

Dec. 1, 2017

Anjolee's Owner

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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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