Neck and Back Pain in Dogs

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Neck and Back Pain in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Neck and Back Pain in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Neck and Back Pain?

Pain in the neck or the back in our canine friends is seen relatively often in the veterinary clinic. Because there are so many illnesses or conditions that can manifest with pain in this area, and the fact that our pets are not able to describe to us the discomfort they are in, it can be sometimes hard to diagnose. As pet owners, we can best tell that our pet is in pain by always being aware of behavioral changes and noticing when they seem to have limitations in activity that they did not before. Episodes of pain can range from mild to severe, with variances in longevity and occurrence. The resolution of back pain will depend on the cause. Any sign of pain in your pet should be checked out by a veterinarian without delay.

Many medical conditions are the source of significant neck and back pain in dogs. The amount of pain, and the reason for it will be related to the type of disease or injury your pet is afflicted with and the location of the problem within the neck and spine area.

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Neck and Back Pain Average Cost

From 50 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $15,000

Average Cost

$8,500

Symptoms of Neck and Back Pain in Dogs

Your pet can exhibit a myriad of signs that his back or neck are causing him aches or twinges. You may see some of the following symptoms in your pet, signalling that a visit to the veterinarian is needed:

  • Arched back
  • Head held low
  • Muscle spasms
  • Vocalization of pain
  • Unsteady gait
  • Slow gait
  • Difficulty rising
  • Decreased appetite
  • Reluctance to be around others
  • Extended neck
  • Stiff neck
  • Pain when defecating
  • Incontinence
  • Muscle wasting
  • Weakened reflexes
  • Loss of sense of paw placement
  • The tail can be held low or in a crooked position
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Causes of Neck and Back Pain in Dogs

Many conditions cause significant pain in the neck or back, a few of which are listed here.

Degenerative diseases

Cervical Intervertebral Disc Disease

  • The jelly-like inner part of the disc loses it softness, becomes dry, and herniates
  • Can suppress the spinal cord
  • Pekingese, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso, Dachshund, and Beagle are predisposed to this condition, occurring as early as one to two years of age

Degenerative Lumbosacral Stenosis

  • Results in compression of the spinal cord and nerves
  • German Shepherds are especially prone and the age range for starting the disease is 3 to 7 years

Trauma

  • Injury can cause damage to tissue and the spinal cord
  • Onset can happen suddenly due to an accident like collision with a vehicle

Tumors

Nephroblastoma

  • A rare tumour that occurs mostly in German Shepherds mainly, from age 5 months to 3 years
  • Causes paralysis is the legs
  • In addition, other tumors can appear as a result of metastatic spread of another cancer

Inflammatory disease

  • Polyarthritis causes neck pain and can be infectious or immune-mediated
  • Meningomyelitis can be related to a disease of the central nervous system or the spinal cord with Maltese, Chihuahua, and Yorkshire Terrier breeds most prone

Congenital malformations

  • Atlanto-axial subluxation refers to instability between vertebrae, specifically C1 and C2
  • Toy breeds, specifically Yorkshire Terriers, are predisposed
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Diagnosis of Neck and Back Pain in Dogs

When you bring your pet into the clinic for a diagnosis for back or neck pain, the veterinary team will handle your dog with the utmost care. It is possible that your furry family member is suffering from a fair amount of pain. Your veterinarian may be able to tell by your pet’s stance that pain is present.

The veterinarian will begin with a physical examination which will include a check for neurological signs that could indicate a problem. This is a good time to provide your veterinarian with any pertinent information you may have on your pet’s health. Questions that may be asked that can provide insight as to why your dog is so uncomfortable.

  • How long has your pet had these symptoms?
  • Have they worsened over time?
  • Are they constant or intermittent?
  • Has he had any falls or similar traumas recently?
  • Has your dog been ill or has he been prescribed any medication of late?
  • How is his appetite?
  • Does your dog yelp out in pain when touched?

Breed disposition and the age of your dog will be considered as the diagnostic process continues. Standard tests that will be done are urinalysis, complete blood count, and blood chemistry. Some neck and back pain causes (like a virus or fungal infection) can be picked up by this simple type of testing.

Additional methods for determining the cause could be taking a tissue sample from a wound, or drawing out cerebral spinal fluid for analysis.. Cervical spine and thoracic radiographs could show fractures or degeneration. Imaging tests like MRI or CT scan could help to narrow down the possibilities. The myelogram, which is when contrast dye is injected around the spinal cord and then viewed, can clearly show disc problems and their location.

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Treatment of Neck and Back Pain in Dogs

Because of the broad range of conditions that can bring on mild to intense neck and back pain for your canine companion, treatment will vary depending on the extent of the pain and what is causing it. In some cases, an underlying disease process needs to be addressed. In other instances, the back or neck may be the main focus of treatment.  

When the reason for the neck or back pain is of an infectious nature, antibiotics and rest may be the only therapy required. Other conditions, like stabilizing a disc, could be improved with cage rest sometimes for as long as 4 to 6 weeks. Anti-inflammatories and pain relievers will be prescribed in addition. Many pets who have pain associated with the neck or back require surgical treatment. Spinal cord compression and tumors are two examples where surgical methods will work best, keeping in mind that the degree of the injury or stage of disease will play a big part in the outcome for your dog.

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Worried about the cost of Neck And Back Pain treatment?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

Recovery of Neck and Back Pain in Dogs

Recovery will be contingent on the repair needed or extent of the pain, your pet’s response to the therapy, and the degree of degeneration involved. For some dogs, cage rest and exercise restriction will be enough to repair and correct a condition that is causing back and neck aches. For others, a more extensive treatment plan will be needed. If your pet requires surgery, for example, a hospital stay and perhaps lengthy physical therapy could be recommended. If your furry family member has experienced a loss of sensation along with the pain, the prognosis could be less favorable. Your veterinarian will discuss all possible avenues for your dog with the main goal in mind of attaining a good quality of life.

Neck and back pain can be expensive to treat. To avoid high vet care expenses, secure pet health insurance today. The sooner you insure your pet, the more protection you’ll have from unexpected vet costs.

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Neck and Back Pain Average Cost

From 50 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $15,000

Average Cost

$8,500

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Neck and Back Pain Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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German Shepard

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Fourteen Years

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0 found helpful

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0 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Painful Urination

When you pet or rub behind the ears down the neck. She tilts her head down, and makes a half grin. Looks like she's having a stroke. But she's just biting down , but stop soon as you stop petting her neck.

Sept. 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. . It is hard to say without being able to see her whether that is causing her pain or not. It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get treatment for them.

Oct. 17, 2020

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Chihuaha

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Seven Years

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0 found helpful

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0 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Wobbly, Flinching When I Try To Touch Around Her Neck, Wobbly Head, Stiff Body

Could she possibley have a neck injury?

Sept. 14, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It is hard to say what might be going on with your dog without being able to examine her Possible things that may be going on sound like maybe a muscle or nerve injury in her neck, or a toxicity of some kind. Is it possible that she got into some medication? If this Behavior continues, it would probably be best to have her seen by a veterinarian, so they can examine her and see what might be going on. Once they know more, they'll be able to give you an idea as to what treatment needs to happen. I hope that she is okay.

Sept. 14, 2020

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Neck and Back Pain Average Cost

From 50 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $15,000

Average Cost

$8,500

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