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Herniated discs in dogs

There are several different types of herniated disc, but technically it means that something breaks in the back. What are the most common symptoms, how are they treated and what does the prognosis look like for the dog to recover? Here we answer the most common questions about herniated discs in dogs.

The back of a dog consists of a number of joints as each vertebra has three joints. Between all the vertebrae there is a disc of cartilage, a so-called disk, whose most important function is to absorb shocks to the back. Normally, there is a jelly-like area in the centre of the disk, unless it has ruptured and leaked. If the discs become cartilaginous and calcified, they cannot absorb shocks in the back in the same way. This makes the disc more brittle than normal and can crack.

Symptoms of a herniated disc in dogs

  • Back pain
  • Impaired motor skills, but can walk
  • Paralysis and cannot walk

Symptoms vary from pain to total paralysis, depending on how serious the injury is, where it is located and how extensive it is. The most common symptom is back pain, but the dog can also have symptoms such as impaired motor skills, loss of sensation and paralysis.

Treatment of herniated disc

The diagnosis of a herniated disc is made using an examination with a magnetic camera or a CT X-ray. Treatment varies depending on the symptoms. In case of loss of sensation, paralysis or continuous pain, the dog should be operated on. The prognosis is usually good if the operation takes place as soon as possible.

In the case of mild herniated discs with only pain, the most important treatment is strict rest for 10-14 days together with anti-inflammatory and muscle-relaxing medication. If the dog continues to be in pain, it can be operated on.

Rehabilitation after a herniated disc takes time

After a herniated disc operation, strict rest is expected for a couple of weeks. To begin with, the dog may find it very difficult to walk, become incontinent and may therefore need help to urinate. After the rest period, physiotherapy awaits in the form of swimming or physical therapy to build up the muscles. It can take up to six months before the dog is recovered. Despite long rehabilitation, the prognosis is often good for the dog to recover.

When do I need to see a vet?

If your dog seems to have back pain, you should contact your vet as there are several conditions that can cause back problems.


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