How to Help a Dog With a Herniated Disc

When your dog is so full of energy, it's hard to imagine that anything could ever keep her down. From fetching to jumping onto the furniture to greeting you enthusiastically at the door when you get home, your dog does it all. However, a single injury can sideline your dog, leaving her in significant pain and unable to use her hind legs. Hopefully, your dog will never experience a herniated disc, but if she does, you can help her to recover.

Dog in the animal hospital
How to Help a Dog With a Herniated Disc
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Intervertebral disc disease in dogs

Intervertebral disc disease, also known as IVDD, is a painful condition affecting a dog's back. According to petMD, the discs that cushion between the spinal column vertebrae bulge or burst into the spinal cord. This can result in nerve damage, significant pain, and even full or partial paralysis. Certain breeds are predisposed to this condition. Dachshunds, beagles, basset hounds, and Shih Tzus are particularly prone to slipped discs. If the issue occurs, your dog will need a trip to the vet, treatment, a possible surgery, and supportive care in order to recover.

Slipped disc symptoms

Your dog may display a number of symptoms when he has a slipped disc, according to petMD. Some of the more common symptoms include pain and weakness in the hind legs, crying out in pain, acting unusually anxious, muscle spasms over the back or neck, demonstrating an unwillingness to jump, standing with a hunched-over back, and even loss of bladder or bowel control. If you notice any of the above symptoms in your dog, you should immediately make an appointment with your vet.

Diagnosing slipped discs in dogs

When diagnosing slipped discs and IVDD, your vet will start by performing a neurologic exam on your dog, states petMD. This exam will help your vet to determine the specific area of the spine that is injured. Your vet may perform a procedure called a myelogram, in which he'll inject a dye into the spine. The dye will help make the spinal cord show up on X-rays so your vet can more accurately determine the precise location of the injury. Additional testing may include an MRI or CT scan, which can be used to determine where your dog's nerves are being pinched.

Treating IVDD

The best treatment for your dog will depend on the severity of her condition. According to VCA Hospitals, IVDD is categorized in five stages. Stages I, II, and III are milder, and their symptoms can range from mild back pain to partial paralysis. They are often first treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, pain relievers, and restricted exercise. In some cases, these treatments can relieve the pain. If the pain worsens, surgery may be necessary. Dogs with more severe slipped discs that cause paralysis are most often treated with surgery. Often, the sooner the surgery is performed, the better the chances of the dog's recovery. It is best if these dogs receive surgery within 24 hours of the onset of paralysis.

Helping your dog

According to petMD, most dogs who have mild to moderate cases of IVDD will improve, regain feeling in their hind legs, and be able to walk again. You can help your dog to recover by offering your dog nursing care as directed by your vet. This may involve massage, administering pain medications on time, restricting your dog's activity level, and providing your dog with heat to help relax his muscles. Though you may do your best in caring for your dog, sometimes dogs will need a dog wheelchair to help them get around. The best care that you can give to your dog is to work closely with your vet to monitor his condition and determine the best course of treatment.