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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.

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

  • Occurs 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

  • Atlantoaxial subluxation refers to instability between vertebrae, particularly 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 reflected 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 of abnormalities. Cervical spine and thoracic radiographs could show fractures or degeneration. Imaging tests like MRI or CT scan could help to narrow down the questions for the cause. 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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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.

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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

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Chihuaha

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Seven Years

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Unknown severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

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, unfortunately. 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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Morkie

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Non Weight Bearing On Hind Left Leg, Lame, No Appetite, Hasn’T Voided Any Urine In Over 24 Hours

I took her to the emergency vet clinic yesterday they stayed her and they all cane back negative for a paw fracture or ACL tear. They determined her pain is coming from her spine and put her on an anti-inflammatory medication. My concern right now is that she has not gone potty at all in the past 24 hours and she drank a ton of water last night. She has an additional appointment for tomorrow to get acupuncture, laser, and a chiropractic adjustment. How do I get her to go potty in the meantime?

Aug. 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question, I'm sorry that your dog is having these troubles. If she is not actually straining to urinate or defecate, and seems comfortable, she may not need to have a bowel movement or urinate at this point, and I would suspect that she will go when she is ready. If she is straining to do either of those things and seems uncomfortable, then I think it would be best to have a recheck with your veterinarian. There are some nerve problems that can cause difficulty in urination or defecation, and they may want to check that out. I hope that she goes potty soon and everything goes well for her.

Aug. 24, 2020

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Shih Tzu

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Eleven Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Neck Pain

My dog has had this pain before, but it's not as severe as it was the first time. Are there any homeopathic treatments

Aug. 6, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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Hello I'm sorry to see that your pet is experiencing neck pain. I recommend taking her to a veterinarian for an exam to see that is the cause. She could be having muscle spasms or a herniated disc. The doctor may recommend medication that will help. Unfortunately I cannot recommend any treatments (homeopathic or otherwise) on this forum, and without a specific diagnosis. Good luck.

Aug. 6, 2020

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Boston Terrier

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Fourteen Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Expanded Mid Section That Moves From Side To Side, And Spasms

Our dog jumped off our bed two weeks ago and her back legs were stiff for about 2 min. Haven’t seen any other issues once she straightened out. She was eating tonight and ALL OF A SUDDEN she jumps and runs and starts walking weird

July 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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Hello, So sorry to hear about your dog. I would worry that she caused some type of internal injury or has an enlarged organ. The swollen side in the picture has me concerned about an internal mass or enlarged liver. Your vet can examine this area and see if your dog has anything abnormal going on. They can also start your dog on pain medication to help with any pain she may be experiencing.

July 30, 2020

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Dachshund

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Nine Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Neck Swollen, Muscles Jumping

She walks with her head low, and her neck swelling and muscles jumping. Been to our vet and done xrays and blood work. Everything normal. Did thermo scan and her head is the only thing red. She is on steroids, antibiotics and pain meds. If she gets hot it starts to swell and muscles jumping. Please help

July 28, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello- Thank you for your question. I’m not sure how long she has been being treated, but if it’s been several days and she is not improving or her symptoms are worsening, I would recommend her seeing a veterinary neurologist. They can perform advanced imaging (MRI) of her spinal cord and vertebral column to see if the issue can be visualized on advanced imaging. Depending on the underlying cause some dogs end up needing surgery. I hope she feels better soon.

July 28, 2020

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Bailey

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American Stafforshire Terrier

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Pain
Shaking
Shivering
Stiffening

For the last couple of weeks, Bailey has intermittent episodes where her whole neck and shoulders seem to stiffen up. She cant raiser her head much and it appears to be painful to her. Not to mention that she starts shaking every time. We did take her to the Vet and they did x-rays, there is no signs of arthritis or any reason on the x-rays of why this is happening. She eats and drinks normally, she goes to the bathroom. The onset is sudden and is generally gone the next day. I checked for bite marks too since we are out in the country. The Vet prescribed a muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory/pain meds. We are all a bit stumped.

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Pixie

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Greyhound

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Six Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Neck Pain
Intermittent Pain
Less Active
Keeps Head Low
Shooting Pain
Slower Than Usual

About 3 weeks ago we noticed that our Pixie (a retired racing Greyhound) was more quiet, would not shake her body or stretch as usual. We thought at first it was an ear infection and took her to our vet who told us the issue was in her neck. She was prescribed Deramaxx for 4 days. She seemed to be doing well while on this medication however the symptoms and pain came back with a vengeance once she was no longer on medication. We took her to our regular vet who then prescribed Prednisone and Gabapentin with along with rest and restricted activity (basically just potty breaks). Although she seems to be much better, from time to time she screams in pain even when there is no movement on her part. She could be sleeping and all of a sudden will wake up screaming (not moving her head or neck at all). She has at least 2-3 more weeks of the restricted activity and bed rest with medications ahead of her. No x-rays or MRI have been taken at this point in time. Should we? I was also wondering if veterinary osteopathic or acupuncture would give her some relief from the shooting pain? What else should we undertake to give her more relief.

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Casey

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Keeshond

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Intermittent Neck Pain

My Keeshond, Casey, is 10 years old. About a week ago, a cyst on the back of her head, that the vet had said was nothing to be concerned about, burst and quite a bit of white pus and blood came out. We treated with general first aid and it has healed well with no redness or swelling. However, a few days later, I have noticed intermittent signs that she is experiencing neck pain. She will be fine most of the day and this seems to only be happening after she goes for walks wearing her harness. She holds her head low and will help if I approach her from the front and try to move her head. After resting on her side for a while she is always fine again. No loss in appetite and other for the intermittent time she is showing signs of pain, her activity level is good. She has been slowing down a bit with her playfulness but that predates this and I attribute that to age. I realize a vet visit is in order to get an accurate diagnosis but would appreciate getting a sense of what might be causing this.

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Lacey

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Bichon Frise

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Head Tilt
Neck Discomfort
Neck Pop

My Bichon Frise(2 years old) has had a head tilt since Saturday. Yesterday(Sunday), we took her to the vet and they gave her opioids for muscle relaxation(after they made sure that she didn't have an ear infection); however, I have heard her neck pop several times. Is this normal? Should I just wait it out?

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Rayan

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Labrador Husky

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10 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Spinal Back Pain

It has been 2 months now since my dog all of a sudden stop getting up and walk.he was fine and then he wasn't. he is seeing fine and eating his regular meals nicely but he is not able to get up and walk for at least his poop or pee.His full back spinal cord is bigger and now very close. All MIR and city scan are done. but nothing can be found clearly. Please help me on this.

Neck and Back Pain Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$8,500

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