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.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I do if my dog has back pain?
Dogs' back pain can be brought on by a number of conditions, such as arthritis, strained muscles, intervertebral disc disease, and injury. The first step is to carefully observe your dog's behavior and look for signs of discomfort, such as reluctance to move, stiffness, hunched posture, or whimpering when touched. Once you've seen these signs, get in touch with your vet and make an appointment as soon as you can. To identify the underlying reason for the back pain, the veterinarian will do a comprehensive examination. To acquire a fuller image of the problem, they could advise diagnostic testing like X-rays or an MRI. Depending on the diagnosis, your vet will develop a treatment plan tailored to your dog's needs. This may include pain medication, anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, or physical therapy. It's important to strictly follow the veterinarian's instructions regarding medications, dosage, and treatment duration. In addition to medical treatment, you can make some adjustments at home to provide comfort for your dog. Create a warm and soft resting area, preferably with a supportive orthopedic bed. Reduce furniture leaping and climbing, and help your dog navigate elevated areas by using ramps or stairs. Finally, to prevent further stress on your dog's back, keep them at a healthy weight with a balanced diet and regular exercise.
Do dogs recover from back pain?
Yes, in many cases, with proper veterinary care and management, dogs can recover from back pain and regain their mobility. However, remember that not every incidence of back pain resolves the same way. To ensure that the dog has a high quality of life, some illnesses, such as intervertebral disc disease or degenerative joint disease, may need constant treatment.
Back discomfort in dogs is often treated with a mix of medical procedures and dietary changes. This could entail taking painkillers, anti-inflammatory medicines, muscle relaxants, engaging in physical therapy, and occasionally even having surgery. Depending on the precise condition and the individual dog, the efficacy of various therapies might vary. In order to treat serious spinal problems or ruptured discs, surgery may occasionally be required.
Why does my dog have pain in his lower back?
There may be a number of causes for the lower back pain that your dog is displaying. Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), which happens when the discs between the spine's vertebrae deteriorate or herniate, causes compression of the spinal cord or nerve roots, is one prevalent reason. Breeds, including Dachshunds, Corgis, and Beagles, are among those who are more susceptible to this condition. A muscle strain or sprain, which can result from abrupt movements, jumping, or vigorous activities, is another potential factor. As the joints age, arthritis, particularly in elderly dogs, can also result in lower back pain. Lower back pain can also be caused by injuries from accidents or falls, infections, tumors, anomalies of the spine, or spinal abnormalities. However, you should have your dog examined by a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause of the pain and receive appropriate treatment.
What home remedy can I give my dog for back pain?
Although there are some things you can do at home to help your dog who has back discomfort, it's important to remember that these things shouldn't take the place of veterinarian treatment. However, there are certain things you can do to reduce your dog's pain. There are a few things you can do to lessen your dog's suffering, though. Create a warm, comfortable sleeping space for your dog in the first place, ideally with an orthopedic bed to support their back. Reduce their physical activity, and stay away from anything that can make their discomfort worse. You might apply a warm compress or heating pad to the affected area for a short period of time. Just make sure it doesn't get too hot, and stay away from the skin. If your dog accepts it, using gentle massage techniques can help muscles relax and prompt blood flow. However, be cautious and avoid massaging directly over the affected area or using excessive pressure. Weight management is crucial, as excess weight can further strain the back. Ensure your dog follows a balanced diet and engages in regular low-impact exercises, such as short walks or swimming if recommended by your veterinarian. Additionally, consider providing joint supplements or omega-3 fatty acids as recommended by your vet to support joint health.
How long does it take for a dog's back injury to heal?
In cases where a dog experiences back pain without paralysis, a common management approach is to provide a period of strict cage rest, typically lasting at least 4 weeks. This rest allows the affected area to heal and reduces the risk of further injury or aggravation. Alongside cage rest, pain relief medication is often prescribed to alleviate discomfort and promote a more comfortable recovery. Dogs with spinal pain may recover more slowly or more quickly, depending on the root cause, the extent of the condition, as well as individual factors. However, studies have indicated that conservative care, which includes cage rest and pain relief, will result in a recovery in about 22-52 percent of instances. It's crucial to remember that healing doesn't always entail a full recovery of symptoms but rather an improvement in the dog's health and a decrease in discomfort.
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.