You probably have a million questions - can my dog live with a slipped disc? What are the causes? What can I do to prevent this? How can I tell if my dog has a slipped disc?
No worries. We're here to help! Check out our guide below to learn about what a slipped disc is, how you can prevent it from happening with your dog, and what signs you should look out for if you're suspicious your dog might have a slipped disc in his back.
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Signs That Your Dog Has a Slipped Disc
One of the most common signs of disc displacement is spinal pain. This is manifested in a few different ways. Your doggo can start to carry himself in strange ways. For example, he might have a strange posture, tiling his head down and rounding his back. He also might be a lot less enthusiastic about moving. He probably won't want to play and will want to spend most of his time laying as still as possible. It's also possible he'll develop a weird gait when he walks.
If you suspect your doggo might be in pain, (very) gently run your hand along his spine. Do you feel any abnormal bumps or lumps? Does it feel like there's something sticking out that shouldn't be? That's a good sign something is wrong.
Your pup might also experience some more severe signs including lameness, loss of coordination, weakness, paralysis, incontinence, or even loss of sensation in his legs. If you notice any of these symptoms in your pup, take him to the vet immediately!
- Head turning
- Low tail carriage
- Raspy panting
- Sweaty paws
- Back hair on edge
- Dropped Ears
- Pupils dilated
- Pain or Weakness in Rear Legs
- Low Appetite and Weight Loss
- Tense Muscles
- Hunched Back
- Anxious Behavior
- Unwillingness to Move or Jump
- Crying Out in Pain
The History of Herniated Discs in Dogs
A slipped disc in a dog can happen in a few different ways. A dog can rupture a normally healthy disc with trauma. Think about dogs who get hit by cars or fall off high surfaces. This can tear their annulus fibrosus and cause destruction in their spinal discs.
Your dog can also have issues with his discs as a result of aging. The progressive thickening of the dorsal part of your dog's annulus fibrosus can press up onto the spinal cord and cause a disc protrusion!
This is most often found in the middle part of the spine, the lower neck, and the lower back - the areas that are most exposed to physical stress.
The Science of a Herniated Disc in Dogs
These discs are spongy and shaped like a doughnut, and act as a pad between the main joint between the vertebrae. The disc lies just underneath the spinal cord in your dog and has a liquid center and a tough fibrous layer. The discs then form a bridge between the vertebrae on either side of it, acting as a spongy cushion that gives both strength and flexibility to your dog's spine.
How to Train Your Dog to Deal with a Slipped Disc
One of the easiest ways is to get him a new, suitable crate or enclosure that's both comfy and limits his movement. Train him to associate this new home with positive reinforcements like treats and cuddles.
Train your dog to be okay with getting help with potty breaks, too. It's probable that your doctor will also prescribe medications for your dog while he heals. To ensure he's getting his right dosage, train your dog to take his medication correctly. Teach him a throw-and-catch game with his pills, train him to take his medicine gently out of your hand, or train him to eat his medication with his food.
There are other things you can do to get your dog to a healed state faster. Apply heat to his affected areas and help him get moving by enrolling him in a physical therapy and recovery program, too. Gentle massage is a good trick as well!
How to React if Your Dog Has a Slipped Disc
Take your dog to a vet immediately!
Discuss surgery with your vet.
Be prepared for healing if your dog needs surgery.
Restrict your dog to bed rest for at least four weeks.
Participate in physical rehabilitation with your dog for muscle strength and flexibility.
One morning my baby girl jumped out of bed, like she always does, but this time she seemed injured. She walked with a slant.. almost sideways and ran into things. I took her to the vet and they said she had ruptured a disc and that the fluid was putting pressure on her spine. She was restricted to bed rest for 2 weeks and given a steroid medication for swelling and a sedative medication for calmness, as she needs to relax as much as possible so that she heals over the next few weeks.
My boy Duncan lay around for two days , when he tried to get up he was dragging his back legs . Took him to vet thinking maybe he had Lyme disease, turned out he had two slipped discs . Spent eight days in hospital . He is home now , it has been a month since this happened , and he is still recovering . He is on gabapentin , tramadol, methocarbamal, and prednisone . I hope so bad that he gets better . I bought him a harness with a handle , and a sling so that we can help him to walk to go potty . He has good days and bad days . I love him so much , it is hard to see him suffer . I hope that he will be greatly improved over the next month or so . I keep him in a doggy playpen that is 5 x 5 to limit his movement . He has to get lots of rest
You have to very strict about the crate rest which is really hard when they start to feel better and want to move around. I used two small pens in living room and bedroom and also got a pet stroller so she could be moved painlessly from room to room. The first week was rough, but she felt better each day. Zero walking is the key. She is small so it was easy to carry her from the crate outside. Sometimes she need support holding up hind legs to go to the bathroom. She’s having a recurrence now and we go to the vet in the morning and I hope she has the same great outcome.
If you pray, pleas keep my little bear in your thoughts.
God blesses me with this little bear. Please let 4-6 weeks of rest repair your spine little one. I can’t bare the pain of your suffering, I can’t Bare another loss. I love you buggy. I hope you come back your wagging tail happy dog prance.
Now my beagle is an exception to the rule. She is very lazy. Now that she is 13 years old, we are seeing a change. She is more wobbly and walks with her head down. Everything else is the same. We are letting her rest as much as possible and we are here to help her get up and down from the furniture.
One thing I am noticing is she can’t do “the shake”, where it starts at their head and ends at their butt. Her head does a small shake, nothing in between then the butt finishes. Cute, but I see this disease progressing.
She was diagnosed at 10 years old and I wouldn’t do surgery then, at 13, I still won’t. She has managed well with the disease and the help from us.
My parents have a 6 year old rat terrier mix. My parents go on a lot of long walks with him and he loves it! He's a very active, very happy dog and would be devastated to not go on his adventures. About 10 months ago he started showing signs of pain and within a day he couldn't move his back legs at all. They took him to the vet and did xrays which confirmed he has disc disease and that one of his discs had herniated. The vet sent him home with the medications that everyone else seems to get, but when he didn't improve, the only option was surgery. Taking care of a pet that is in pain and can't move or is moving awkwardly is very mentally and physically difficult for both owner and pet. It was expensive, but he's so young it was more than worth it. Plus, he was still himself for the most-part (happy, relatively energetic). After the surgery it took him about a month to really be able to walk on his own and for several months after that he walked very weird, but was not in any pain. It was also very difficult to keep him from moving around a lot during this time. As soon as he was comfortable enough, he wanted to run around and jump and play. We could have done a much better job of restricting his movement and changing his lifestyle, but it's no easy task. In the last two weeks he has shown definite signs of pain again, but no paralysis. Because his disc disease is degenerative (and not a one-time slipped disc) he is likely in pain from an array of spinal issues. We've taken him again to several vets and specialists and they tell us that there isn't anything in particular on the xrays that tell them what we can fix, but meds and rest were again prescribed in order to get any swelling and discomfort down. He was actually misdiagnosed at first with appendicitis because he would cry when he was picked up. A week later after meds and rest he seems worse. He doesn't move much at all, has terrible diarrhea (vets say from stress), and he doesn't have his personality like when his disc was slipped. We aren't sure that he will get better this time. My moral of the story is, get your dog the surgery if the vet suggests it, take extreme measures to limit their movement long-term. Shorter, lighter walks, NO JUMPING, and minimize running and rough housing. If you do have to get the surgery, be prepared for a long and time consuming recovery. This was difficult for my parents as well because they both still work full time, but they got him a little doggy play-pen type enclosure and fortunately he loves his crate, unfortunately, for them, it seems like the degeneration of his spine may have been quicker than expected. Pray for this sweet puppy and for my parents. I pray for all of you as well. It's absolutely gut-wrenching to see your pet go through this and we're always torn as to what we can do to help. Do everything you can, because if you don't you'll always look back and wish you had. Good luck and remember a healing spine takes time.
We took him in first thing at 7 am. Doctor referred us to a neurologist to rule out intravertebral disc disease. As Milo was still walking, the neurologist said that they could do surgery but he could also just be crated for 4 weeks to let his body heal and to return if he loses feeling in his feet. I believe his results may have been different if the first vet hadn't given him Morphine to control his pain. But I also didn't want Milo to suffer either. So it was relieving to have him pain free for a few hours. Well we chose the crate option and within 1 hour of being home, he lost use of his legs but still responded with us pinching his foot. I should have taken him back then. As my husband had been to the neurologist with Milo, I wasn't fully informed of all the risks of IVDD and delaying surgery. At 2 am on July 7th, we took him to the vet, who was suspicious of Myelomalacia, spinal death. Milo had lost all feeling in his lower extremities. He recommended we drive 1.5 hours away to the nearest neurologist available on a Sunday. We had the MRI done and the neurologist was 90% confident that his IVDD advanced to myelomalacia, which could only be truly diagnosed with a spinal tap. So just a heads up to the furparents, that it could advance to something more deadly.
The option was to perform the surgery and hope that it was just inflammation (highly unlikely) and wait to confirm the myelomalacia, waiting for it to spread. The myelomalacia would have left him in excrutiating pain and would have continued to spread to his upper spine and prevented him from breathing, and then eventually killing him. We didn't want that for our sweet Milo. And so we put our sweet boy down while he was under anesthesia. We did not even get a proper goodbye as we thought we would see him after surgery. It was so quick and so unexpected. I hope for smooth and successful recoveries for your furbabies.