If you notice that your dog is having difficulty doing regular, everyday things, such as bending down to eat or hop up on the couch, it could be that your dog is suffering from back pain. It can be difficult to tell exactly what is going on with your dog, especially since they have no way of telling you what's bothering them. To help you discover what is keeping your pup down, here are some of the main causes for dog back pain.
1. Slipped disc
Like people, your dog’s spine is made up of hollow bones known as “vertebrae,” separated by squishy discs that prevent direct bone-to-bone contact. However, over time these discs can become brittle, forcing the squishy core to pop out and leaving the two vertebrae it was separating to come into contact, which can cause your dog great pain. You might be able to tell if your dog has a slipped disc if they start carrying their back in an arched, or rigid, position. Slipped discs can also cause dogs to become paralyzed because of compression on their spinal cord.
If you think your dog has a slipped disc, also known as intervertebral disc disease, take them to the vet immediately where they can be x-rayed and given a physical. Sometimes surgery is a treatment option. Otherwise, treatment typically includes taking anti-inflammatory medications, like Rimadyl, and supplements, along with some rest -- often in their crate -- to prevent them from moving around and exacerbating their condition.
2. Muscle spasm from overexertion
If you have an older dog who refuses to acknowledge their age, playing like a pup day and night, chances are if their back is flaring up, it's just a sign of the times catching up to them. If your dog is suffering from muscle spasms caused by overexertion, it goes without saying that they should be taking it easy for a while.
Your vet might prescribe your dog muscle relaxants to help reduce the tension being caused by the muscles surrounding their spine.
Certain breeds of dogs are predisposed to having chronic back pain, such as Dachshunds, Shih Tzus, Pekingese, and Lhasa Apsos. Something about these breeds’ genetic makeup renders them much more likely to end up having back problems. This is not to say their pain cannot be treated, but rather, the cause of their condition is determined by their background and not environmental conditions. Talk to your vet about possible treatments.
4. Enlarged prostate
If your dog has back pain and they are also having difficulty with bowel movements, chances are they have an enlarged prostate, which could be putting pressure on the spinal cord, resulting in a significant amount of pain.
The primary treatment option is neutering, as the majority of dogs that develop prostate problems are un-neutered. A series of antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs may also be given, but the best protection against an enlarged prostate is having your dog neutered at a young age. Treatment for this condition might also include a change in diet, as the foods they have been eating could be causing the blockage.
5. Disorders of the meninges
The meninges are the membranes that cover the brain and spine. An infection, or inflammation, of these membranes can cause soreness and stiffness along your dog’s spine. Often called meningitis, the inflammation of the meninges can be caused by a number of things, from viral infections to bacterial, parasitic, or fungal infections.
Typically a problem of inflammation, the first line of defense is normally glucocorticoids, which help reduce the swelling, thus alleviating the pain.
Likely the most frightening cause on the list, back pain could be caused by cancer, when a tumor is found growing on the vertebrae, nerve roots, or the soft tissues around the spine. No way near as easy to treat as the previous entries, this diagnosis could involve invasive surgery, as well as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy.
More on Chronic Dog Pain
8 Ways to Treat Dog Joint Pain
Pain Relief for Dogs - What to Give a Hurtin' Pup
Your Guide to Dog Arthritis Medicine
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.