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Herniated disc in dogs – what does it mean for your four-legged friend?

Bandscheibenvorfall beim Hund - Ursachen, Folgen, Symptome & Behandlung

Herniated disc in dog

Herniated disc is a common disease of the spine in dogs. More than ¾ of the incidents involve the thoracic or lumbar spine. Less than a quarter involve the cervical spine. Theoretically, any disc from the first cervical vertebra to the sacrum can be affected.

What is an intervertebral disc and what is its function?

Intervertebral discs sit between the individual vertebrae. It consists of a fibrous ring and a gelatinous core. It is located between two vertebrae. It functions like a shock absorber between the individual vertebrae. At the same time, it allows movement of the individual vertebral bodies among themselves.

How does a herniated disc occur?

When a disc becomes porous, brittle and dry, its elasticity is reduced. The important function as a shock absorber is diminishing. The altered material protrudes into the spinal canal. It presses on the spinal cord and nerves. This means the function of the nerves is disturbed. As a result, neurological disorders of varying severity occur, depending on their extent. Paralysis is also possible. A herniated disc is usually acute.

The compression plays a big role

How pronounced the signs are depends on the rate at which the disc prolapses. Another factor is the duration of pressure on the spinal cord. In the case of a protrusion, this is a slow process. It is rather gradual. So the pressure on the spinal cord slowly increases. The symptoms also slowly intensify. The protrusion provides pain, an ataxic gait, and paralysis. The duration of recovery depends on the extent and duration of compression.

Causes of a herniated disc

It various causes. On the one hand, a herniated disc often occurs in dogs with a breed-related predisposition. In dogs with a genetic predisposition, it usually occurs between 4-6 years of age (type I degeneration). Affected breeds include dachshunds, French bulldogs, beagles and poodles. Basset, German Shepherd, Pekinese and Cocker Spaniel are also included.

What else can cause it?

Weak connective tissue, overuse and misuse (service and sporting dogs) and obesity can also promote prolapse. In older dogs, the discs are often less elastic and become porous. Protrusion of the disc’s gelatinous nucleus, which then pushes out the fibrous ring, is also possible. It is rather rarely triggered by an accident in dogs.

The consequences

There may be further prolapses in front of and behind the affected vertebrae. For the symptoms to recede and for your dog to recover, it is important that he is treated very quickly. That is, in the case of an acute incident, treatment should be given within the first 24 hours. This way there is the best chance for a full recovery.

What are the symptoms?

The signs are very diverse. Depending on the severity, buckling of the hind legs and balance problems may occur. Neurological problems, including paralysis of the hind legs, are also possible. With a herniated disc in the cervical spine, paralysis of all four limbs is possible. Many dogs show a stiff and tucked up back before an acute episode occurs. Kind of like a cat hump. They are sensitive to touch in the affected area. Often you can feel a warming. The dogs have severe back pain. The back muscles are very tense.

The dog is in a vicious circle:

He suffers from pain due to the prolapsed disc. This leads to a relieving posture and tension in the back muscles. This in turn increases the pressure on the intervertebral disc. It hurts more as a result. In this situation, there are restrictions in movement. The four-legged friend may no longer move. Many dogs avoid things like climbing stairs and jumping into cars. Other signs include paw dragging, difficulty defecating and urinating. Incontinence is also possible.

How is the herniated disc diagnosed?

The symptoms are usually very clear. A neurological examination should be performed by the veterinarian. Imaging procedures such as CT and MRI make the incident visible and secure the diagnosis. This is indispensable, especially during an operation.

How to treat a herniated disc? Herniated disc dog

The extent of the neurological problems determines the therapy. If the dog can no longer stand independently and there is complete paralysis, the literature advises surgery. The aim of the surgical procedure is to remove the pressure from the spinal cord. This happens by removing the precipitated material. If the dog suffers from a pure pain syndrome and problems with coordination, it is usually treated conservatively at first. This means he is given painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs. It must be kept absolutely still. Always consider age and general health status (risk of anesthesia) when choosing therapy.

Does physiotherapy help and what does it do?

In both cases, I recommend that you start physical therapy immediately. Because the goal is to relieve pain and relax overworked areas. Musculature and mobility should be maintained and trained. Nerve conduction is trained. This counteracts neurological disorders. It is important to train your dog’s coordination and body awareness. Likewise, a healthy exercise routine is important.

Tips for behavior in the event of a herniated disc

In the first 4-6 weeks strict leash restriction is announced. The movement and load should be adapted to the state of the disease. Very short exercise sessions throughout the day are very important. Long walks, jerky movements and tight turns are taboo. You should also avoid jumping, climbing stairs and short stops. Prevent other dogs from riding at all costs. Just like the patting and patting on the back by the human. If you have a herniation in the cervical spine, your dog should wear a harness. Weight loss is very important for overweight dogs. In wet and cold weather, protect your dog’s back with a coat. The following applies to sporting dogs: competitive sports are taboo. This is because there is a risk of another herniated disc. Therefore, I recommend sports that are easy on the back and joints.

To help you support your dog with a herniated disc, I’ll show you two effective and easy-to-implement physio exercises to try in my next blog article. Herniated disc dog Herniated disc dog Herniated disc dog Herniated disc dog

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