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Slipped vertebrae in dogs – spondylosisthesis – all the facts about the disease

Der Gleitwirbel beim Hund ist eine Erkrankung der Wirbelsäule, die zu einer Instabilität führt. Erfahre hier, was Symptome & Behandlungsmöglichkeiten sind.

A slipped vertebra in a dog is an unnaturally mobile vertebra in the back that leaves its normal position within the spine, causing discomfort. One can imagine that this has a major impact on a complex construct like the spine, which inherently allows certain movements, but again limits mobility elsewhere. Especially since the spine is surrounded by nerves, muscles, tendons and ligaments. This unnatural mobility thus has a direct impact on the structures surrounding the spine.

A slipped vertebra is therefore an instability of the spine in which two vertebrae shift against each other. As a rule, the entire vertebra shifts, including the vertebral arch with its transverse processes and the upper articular processes. Since nerves also run in these areas, this almost inevitably leads to nerves becoming pinched. This in turn means that the nerves are damaged and, in the worst case, their function is restricted or they fail.

The causes of a slipped vertebra

There are different causes for a slipped vertebra. Often it is a congenital deformation of the spine. However, there may also be a non-congenital change in the spine. These include, for example, signs of wear and tear of the vertebral joints (facet arthrosis), bone loss or previous fractures. However, wear and tear of the small vertebral joints (facet arthrosis) is the most common cause.

Symptoms – these problems cause a sliding vertebra in a dog

A slipped vertebra causes pain above all else. The irritation and also the pinching or pinching off of the nerves also causes neurological problems. Depending on the position of the gliding vertebra, this can be, for example, paralysis of the hind legs, but also of all four legs, coordination disorders or paw dragging. Bladder and bowel function may also be disturbed. As a result, the musculature also becomes weaker.

The non-physiological mobility of the vertebrae also leads to excessive wear of the intervertebral discs. Herniated discs can thus be a consequence. Irritation can also lead to excessive wear of the vertebral joints and, as a result, to spondylarthrosis.

Diagnosis of spondylosisthesis

To differentiate slipped vertebra from other disorders that cause similar complaints and symptoms, a neurological-orthopedic examination and a thorough medical history are first performed. Imaging procedures such as an MRI provide particularly good information here, or the dog suffers from a slipped vertebra or another disease of the spine.

Differential diagnosis – which other diseases must be excluded?

In any case, other spinal diseases such as spondylosis, a herniated disc, Wobbler syndrome or cauda equina compression syndrome must be excluded.

Treatment of a slipped vertebra

The type of treatment always depends primarily on the extent of the slipped vertebra and the patient’s complaints. However, I always strongly recommend strengthening the back muscles to relieve and stabilize the spine. This can prevent further damage to the surrounding structures and also take away pain. In addition, administration of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs is recommended in conservative treatment. Nutritional supplements can also do a good job here. Additionally, neural therapy can provide pain relief.

Surgical stabilization of the slipped vertebra is also possible. Minimally invasive vertebral locking is used here. In any case, an affected dog should be accompanied by canine physiotherapy.

Therapy goals of physiotherapy

The first priority here is always good pain management. This means pain should be relieved and controlled as much as possible. When treating a patient with a slipped vertebra, the focus is also clearly on strengthening the back muscles to give the spine stability and prevent further damage to the nerves and surrounding structures. Improvement and strengthening of nerve function through targeted training, is also always part of the treatment. Sliding vertebrae in dog

It is also very important here that the dog owner is given appropriate exercises to strengthen the muscles, coordination and maintain mobility, which he regularly performs with his dog between physiotherapy sessions.

Tips for behavior in everyday life with a sliding vertebra in a dog

I recommend that you make sure that you absolutely avoid roughhousing other dogs in dog encounters. Wild play, jostling, etc. should also be avoided in any case. Also, patting the dog on the back should be avoided at all costs, as it is very uncomfortable.

Always match your dog’s exertion to his disease state. This can also vary from day to day. It is better to take several short walks rather than two or three long walks. You should also avoid jumping into or out of the car, as it puts a lot of strain on the spine. Here you can very well use a ramp for the car. Does your dog like to lie on the sofa or in bed? Then there are great dog stairs that allow him to easily reach the sofa and bed.

When it comes to sleep, you should make sure that the spine is supported in a way that relieves pressure as much as possible. If we consider that our dogs sleep and rest 17-20 hours, this is a particularly important point. Here I definitely recommend an orthopedic dog bed. Sports like agility are absolutely taboo. Tight turns, short stops, etc. are poison for the spine. If your dog is overweight, then weight loss is essential to avoid putting more stress on his spine. In bad weather, it makes sense to keep your dog’s back warm with a dog coat.

As you can see, there are a lot of ways to support your dog in everyday life and give him relief with simple means. Your dog can live well with a sliding vertebra. However, the disease must be treated and accompanied appropriately, and in everyday life, even simple to implement tips provide an enormous relief for your dog.


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