Back and Neck Injuries

Tight, twisty agility courses and rigid weave poles are often the cause of back and neck injuries in dogs, as are the twists and turns of a lure course and the spinal compression that occurs every time an advanced obedience or flyball dog lands following a jump. Even if a dog isn't injured during a sport, the underlying arthritis caused by strain on the joints can precipitate problems later from a more trivial action, such as jumping off the sofa.

Intervertebral Disc Disease

Some dogs develop intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), which occurs with the degeneration of the gel-like cushions, called discs, that rest between the vertebrae. The discs serve as shock absorbers, but they can start to dry out and lose their elasticity. Trauma, even as mild as jumping off the sofa, can cause a degenerating disc to rupture.

Two types of disc ruptures can affect dogs. The first type, seen most often in small dogs such as dachshunds, beagles, cocker spaniels, and Pekingese, occurs when the outside portion of the disc breaks open, allowing the cushy center to push out through the opening and put pressure on the spinal cord. The second type, which usually affects larger breeds such as German shepherd dogs or Labrador retrievers, occurs when the entire disc bulges outward, pressing on the spinal cord.

In either case, the result is pain and sometimes partial or complete paralysis. Disc ruptures can come on gradually or suddenly.

Treating Bach and Neck Pain

Rest and pain relief are often the best cures for IVDD. Rest doesn't just mean refraining from a sport; it means close confinement and only brief walks on leash so your dog can relieve himself. The typical rest period is two to four weeks. In addition to analgesics for pain relief, your veterinarian may also prescribe corticosteroids to help reduce swelling and inflammation. A dog with paralysis may need surgery to repair the damage. Stiffness and back pain from arthritis can be treated with rest and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory pain relievers such as carprofen and etodolac.

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