How to Care for a Dog With a Broken Back

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Things You'll Need

  • Blankets

  • Appropriately sized kennel

  • Medications (such as pain medication, muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatory pills, prescribed by a veterinarian)

  • Heating pad or hot water bottle

  • Ice or cooling packs

  • Specialized canine aquatic therapy / therapist


Back injuries, particularly when broken bones are suspected, are serious and require the assistance of a veterinarian. Attempting to treat a serious back injury in a dog without the appropriate guidance or technique can lead to more serious problems, such as incontinence, loss of movement and/or paralysis.


For more serious injuries that cannot be treated solely by limiting mobility and providing assistance with standing and moving, there are alternative therapies such as aquatic treatment, which provides a low-stress environment for the back while facilitating muscle movement and circulation in the affected area.

The proper diagnosis of a back injury is critical for appropriate treatment.

Caring for a dog that has had a back injury, such as a broken back, can be intimidating and nerve-racking, since animals are unable to clearly communicate their pain and discomfort. Having an understanding of the mechanics of a dog's spine and the different techniques that can be used to minimize pain and facilitate the healing process can be helpful in caring for your pet and providing the best environment for recovery.


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Step 1

Observe the dog for signs of injury, such as limping, shivering or vocally reacting to pain, or difficulty in moving or avoidance of putting weight on certain limbs. Whining, licking the area or nipping if the injured area is touched can also indicate significant pain.


Step 2

An accurate and prompt diagnosis can help reduce the severity and longevity of a back injury.

Upon observation of any of the above symptoms, immediately take your dog to a veterinarian for an official diagnosis. A vet may perform a number of tests to obtain an official diagnosis. Most often, X-rays are used when broken limbs are suspected. Sometimes X-rays are unnecessary if the symptoms and behavior of the dog can confirm the injury. An accurate diagnosis allows a vet to prescribe medications that can help alleviate symptoms of serious injury, such as pain or inflammation. However, pet owners must be cautious when using these medications—the dog may feel better once its symptoms are treated, but the injury still exists and mobility and behavior must be limited to ensure recovery rather than re-injury.


Step 3

A brace can limit mobility as well as provide support for a dog suffering from a back or joint injury.

Once a broken back is diagnosed, the veterinarian may try to manually limit the mobility of the dog by fitting it with a brace, depending on the location and severity of the injury. Limiting mobility is the most important aspect of the healing process, to ensure that the dog does not re-injure itself. Unlike human braces, a canine brace may not fully limit mobility, and are sometimes not used if they appear to be more of an irritant than an aid to the dog's recovery.


Step 4

Blankets can greatly help remove stress from a dog's back when used to aide in lifting and standing.

A blanket is often used to assist dogs with standing or moving from a lying-down position. Place the blanket evenly under the dog's belly, and provide consistent pressure as you lift up to uniformly elevate the dog and thereby reduce any pressure on the spine or back.


Step 5

A dog crate or kennel should be just big enough for a dog to walk in, turn around and lie down comfortably.

A kennel is key in reducing a dog's mobility. A kennel represents a dog's "den," or living space. Keeping a dog's mobility limited to its kennel, aside from when the dog urinates or defecates, is critical in the recovery process for a broken back, or any back or joint injury. Allowing the injured area to rest and subsequently applying heat or ice (depending on the recommendations of the veterinarian treating the overall health of the dog) are key components in ensuring that the injury is not re-aggravated or made worse through unnecessary activity. Although it may seem cruel to not allow a dog to play and run, and instead have them confined to an appropriately sized kennel, it is one of the best ways to treat a back injury.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.