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What is Spine Degeneration?

Spine degeneration in dogs can be described in several ways. The effect of the degeneration on your pet will depend on the type of deterioration, and the prognosis after treatment. The recognition of the need for a veterinarian visit for treatment can be the result of a progressive condition, or may present in an acute manner. It should be noted that some degenerative conditions in dogs may not be easily recognised. Therefore, if you see your pet showing signs of pain or discomfort, contact the veterinarian without delay.

Spine degeneration in dogs is a condition that occurs secondary to diseases of the spine that cause a deterioration in stability and mobility for your dog. Treatment by a veterinarian is imperative in order to maintain a quality of life for your pet.

Spine Degeneration Average Cost

From 4 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $8,500

Average Cost

$4,500

Symptoms of Spine Degeneration in Dogs

Symptoms of the worsening of a condition of the spine will depend on the type of degeneration.

Degenerative Myelopathy
  • Inability to climb stairs or get into a vehicle (meaning rear limb weakness)
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Hind leg muscle loss
  • Difficulty lying down or raising up
  • Progression may bring bladder and/or bowel incontinence
  • As disease progresses you may see hind tail drooping and severe rear leg drag
Intervertebral Disc Disease

The symptoms will vary depending upon the severity of the disease:

  • Vocalisation of pain (in back or neck)
  • Shivering and rapid breathing
  • Movements show a hunched back
  • Unwillingness to move because it is difficult to walk
  • Severe cases may result in loss of bladder function and the inability to feel pain

Spondylosis Deformans

Dogs may be asymptomatic for this condition, but sometimes can present as follows:

  • Obvious bone spurs along spine
  • Pain resulting from bone spurs pressing on vertebral ligaments or spinal nerve roots
  • Pain evident in hind leg motion

Lumbosacral Stenosis

Older dogs with this condition may be hard to identify as owners often associate the symptoms with age.

  • Limping
  • Appearing slow to rise
  • Experiencing incontinence in the bladder and/or bowel

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Causes of Spine Degeneration in Dogs

Causes of spine degeneration are numerous, but the necessity for prompt treatment remains the same:

  • Degenerative Myelopathy
    • This is a slow onset, painless, progressive deterioration of the spinal cord, which eventually leads to atrophy of the brainstem and cranial nerves. It is similar to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in humans and similarly results in paralysis and death.
  • Intervertebral Disc Disease
    • This is disc degeneration caused by the loss of the ability of the disc to hold the liquid necessary for proper function, and can result in nucleus pulposus degeneration and extrusion (Hansen type I), or annulus fibrosis disc degeneration and a protrusion (Hansen type II). (There is also Hansen type III which is caused by exercise or trauma).
  • Spondylosis Deformans
    • Boxers and large breed dogs are reported to be more susceptible to this condition which is caused by disc changes (such as narrowing of spaces between discs), resulting in bony outgrowths that can encroach on the spinal nerve root or spinal cord.
  • Lumbosacral Stenosis
    • This disease can be congenital or may be a consequence of a degenerative narrowing of the spinal cord. German Shepherds, Boxers and Rottweilers can be prone to this condition which causes instability between the vertebrae.
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Diagnosis of Spine Degeneration in Dogs

  • Degenerative Myelopathy
    • The diagnosis for this condition is one of exclusion, using MRI and myelography to rule out other degenerative diseases. The only way to completely confirm is at the time of autopsy, after the death of the dog by examining changes in the spinal cord characteristic only to this condition.
  • Intervertebral Disc Disease
    • Diagnosis can be made through the process of a radiograph, but the best result for a definitive conclusion is through advanced imaging such as MRI or CT scan. Your pet will be put under general anaesthesia for this procedure.
  • Spondylosis Deformans
    • The veterinarian will study your pet’s medical history before doing a physical and neurological (testing of reflexes and motor function) exam. Radiographs (x-ray), under anaesthesia, may show evidence of lesions or spurs. Myelography (X-ray using a contrast medium), is performed on canines who are candidates for surgery.
  • Lumbosacral Stenosis
    • Analytical tools such as x-ray, CT scan, MRI, or myelogram will be used to correctly diagnose and differentiate from other degenerative diseases that may present similarly.
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Treatment of Spine Degeneration in Dogs

There is no cure for Degenerative Myelopathy though there are adequate tools and resources that can be used in the earlier stages of the disease to make your dog’s mobility and joy of life possible as the illness progresses.

With Intervertebral Disc Disease, Spondylosis Deformans and Lumbosacral Stenosis, the treatment will depend on the severity and the limitations your pet is having mobility wise. All three conditions can be treated with pain relief and movement restriction by imposing crate rest. However, surgery is often the option in order to completely recover normal functions and movement, and to prevent the recurrence of the disease.

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Recovery of Spine Degeneration in Dogs

Degenerative MyeIopathy presents in stages. In the first phase (each phase is 3 to 6 months in duration), physical therapy such as swimming, and tools like hind quarter harnesses can be used to help your dog achieve some day to day normalcy. As the condition progresses into the second phase, aquatic therapy and a harness can still be used. However, complications of the progression, like loss of bladder function will begin to reduce the quality of life for your dog. The end stages will see a multisystem failure, and euthanasia is the common step at this point.

Intervertebral Disc Disease, Spondylosis Deformans and Lumbosacral Stenosis require extensive recovery time and patient management. After surgery, pain medication will be administered immediately. The length of hospital stay depends on individual circumstances but support therapy, physiotherapy, and comprehensive rehabilitation will be necessary in order to assure a comfortable and healthy recovery. It must be noted that despite the best efforts of you and your veterinarian, your dog may never completely recover normal function or the natural mobility he once had.

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Spine Degeneration Average Cost

From 4 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $8,500

Average Cost

$4,500

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Spine Degeneration Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Pug

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8 months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

my puppy has been throwing up non stop for 3 weeks now that it’s getting worse that she throws up after eating and won’t even play and is getting skinnier that now her spine is showing on top we can feel it and it’s like arching almost. she was tested for parvo and worms and something bacteria and all cake out negative.

July 28, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello- Thank you for your question. It sounds like she needs to return to the veterinarian and have full bloodwork and x-rays performed. There are several other causes of vomiting including foreign bodies, issues with the kidneys or liver, or diseases of the G.I. tract that inhibit absorption. If general bloodwork and x-rays are normal I would recommend a TAMU GI panel and an abdominal ultrasound. I hope the cause can be figured out soon, and she can get to feeling better.

July 28, 2020

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Sky

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Siberian Husky

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7 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Sluggish
Sluggish , Always Panting , Thirsty

Hi , my name is Sky and I am a 7 year young Siberian Husky.I ve seen the vet yesterday and x-rays taken shows spondylosis of my spine. My humans are worried. I am sluggish but enjoy my walks and walk up and down stairs in my home. Will this condition worsen and cause me pain as I grow older and is there any meds like Calcium or pain meds that I can get my humans to look at.

Sept. 23, 2018

Sky's Owner

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Bo

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Shar-Pei Pitbull Terrier

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8 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Incontinence
Stiffness
Limping
Lame

Our dog Bo had been experiencing stiffness and some limping for some time now, but we attributed it to his ACL surgery 6 years ago, and figured there was some artheritis there. Over the past few months he has been experiencing fecal incontinence, and it is stedilly getting worse and more frequent. We have noticed that after everytime he goes poop outside, we can expect him to have fecal incontinence in the house after he gets up from relaxing. Last week he was diagnosed with spondylosis, and the vet thought that it was severe enough that it has caused some nerve damage, and that this damage has caused him to lose feeling in his anus (thus causing him to not realize that he isn't fully done going to the bathroom). He also said that at this stage, it isn't operable. We were prescribed an anti-inflammitory med, but we haven't noticed any improvement. He seems to be uncomfortable at times, but to me, not in a lot of pain. Could he be hiding his pain, or with the nerve damage could he possibly not feel pain? We are trying to find ways to make him comfortable, but don't want to prolong his suffering.

Aug. 13, 2018

Bo's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Dogs are stoic animals and can hide their pain well so sometimes we only see signs of pain at the end. You should keep Bo’s movement restricted and continue with the anti inflammatories prescribed by your Veterinarian; see how he goes and keep in contact with your Veterinarian for follow up examinations. Without examining Bo myself and seeing medical records cannot really weigh in. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 14, 2018

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Rascal

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Shepherd

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9 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Cant Walk,

Rascal was diagnosed about a year ago with degenerative back disease.I have to carry him to go potty and can feel very little muscle mass in his right hip.Will his bladder just get weak we and weaker toward the end ,what about his mental clarity

Aug. 7, 2018

Rascal's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Urinary incontinence may occur, but it depends on specifically where in the spine the condition is located; there shouldn’t be an effect on mental acuity with this condition. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 7, 2018

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Bella

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Cockapoo

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6 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Stiffness

After an MRI scan my 6 year old cocker poo has been confirmed as having degenerative disc and has been on Gabapentin 1 tablet twice a day. (first six months 2 tablets twice a day) what is the best way for me to give her the best chance of keeping her in an active life and should I be doing anything other than pain management to help her. Our Vet does not think an operation will help as the condition is not predictable

June 22, 2018

Bella's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Pain management and movement restriction is the best course of action, surgery is appropriate in some cases which would be determined by your Veterinarian; you should try to keep Bella calm and to walk her outside on a lead not letting her run or jump. You should visit your Veterinarian regularly for follow up examinations to check reflexes and other parameters as well as ensuring the condition is being managed. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 22, 2018

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Rocko

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Boxer

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12 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

Incontinence
Difficulty Walking
Difficulty Standing
Walking On The Top Of His Feet
Difficulty Climbing The Stairs

My 12 year old boxer, Rocko, has been showing signs of spinal issues for the last year. All of his blood tests show up normal. When I first noticed it, he was just skimming one foot on the ground when walking. Over the last year it has progressed to him walking on the tops of his back feet and him having difficulty standing. I also notice I can now see his spine and he has lost 10 lbs since April even though we increased his food intake. He has been to the vet and they put him on gabbomenten. On this medicine and any other pain meds, his symptoms get much worse to the point he could not walk much at all. He does not seem to feel the pain, but from the xrays, the vet said he should be in pain. He sleeps a lot, but when we get home at night, he plays very vigorously and seems happy. He has also lost some control over his urination and defecation. We know we do not have much time left with him, but we don't want to make a rash decision if he's not suffering.

Spine Degeneration Average Cost

From 4 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $8,500

Average Cost

$4,500