Herniated disc in dogs: symptoms, treatment and prevention
Unfortunately, it is quite common that a dog suffers a slipped disc. Some dog breeds are particularly susceptible to this. In principle, however, any dog can be affected under certain circumstances.
The symptoms can vary depending on the severity and affected area. However, you can be sure that a herniated disc will cause your dog great pain. In some cases it can even lead to paralysis.
In the following, we will explain how to recognise a herniated disc in your dog, how it can be treated and how good the chances of recovery are. We also give you tips on prevention.
Slipped disc in your dog: what is it?
The intervertebral discs are located between the individual vertebrae of the dog. They serve as a buffer and protect the spine from shocks. At the same time, they allow the spine to move.
Each intervertebral disc consists of ring-shaped cartilage tissue in which a flexible gelatinous core is enclosed. If the soft core escapes, a herniated disc (discus prolapse) occurs in the dog.
Since the gelatinous core usually presses on the spinal cord and nerves, the whole thing is usually very painful for affected quadrupeds. In addition, a herniated disc often causes paralysis in dogs.
Possible causes for a herniated disc in dogs
When a dog suffers a slipped disc, this is usually due to a degenerative change in the disc tissue. This excessive wear and tear can have various triggers, which are often mutually beneficial.
Among the possible causes of a herniated disc in dogs are, in particular, frequent misuse and overloading of the musculoskeletal system and overweight.
Apart from this, however, the normal aging process can also lead to increasing wear and tear of the intervertebral discs. For this reason, old dogs are generally more frequently affected by a herniated disc than their younger counterparts.
Certain breeds of dog are particularly susceptible to a herniated disc
The reasons mentioned above can basically increase the probability of a herniated disc in all dogs. However, apart from this, there are some breeds which by nature have a higher than average risk.
Most affected are dog breeds with short legs and a long back. In these breeds, the intervertebral discs calcify comparatively early, which causes them to lose their elasticity and no longer be able to fulfil their function properly.
At the same time the intervertebral discs are exposed to a higher load due to the length of the back. Both together lead to the fact that these dogs often suffer a slipped disc at a comparatively young age.
An increased risk for a herniated disc exists in the following dogs, among others:
- German Shepherd
- French Bulldog
- Shih Tzu
- Welsh Corgi Pembroke
Recognizing a slipped disc in a dog
The exact symptoms that the disc prolapse causes in dogs depend, among other things, on the place where it occurs and the severity of the herniated disc.
Since the emergence of the gelatinous core is very painful, a curved back, a conspicuous sensitivity to touch as well as a clearly decreasing urge to move can be the first signs of a herniated disc in the dog.
If the gelatinous core emerges completely, there are additional symptoms such as unsteady gait, coordination disorders, paralysis and regrinding of the limb.
If a dog suffers a slipped disc in the cervical spine, this can usually be noticed by a stiff neck. The pressure on the nerves can also sometimes cause incontinence in dogs due to the disc prolapse.
Diagnosis of the herniated disc in dogs
If you think that your dog may have suffered a slipped disc, a timely visit to the vet is essential. The veterinarian will perform neurological tests and examine the spine using imaging techniques such as x-rays, MRIs or CTs.
This is necessary to find out the exact position of the herniated disc in your dog. It also allows the vet to rule out other possible causes of the disc herniation, such as a fractured vertebra.
Treatment of the herniated disc in dogs
The necessary treatment measures are primarily determined by the severity of the herniated disc in your dog.
A slight disc prolapse without paralysis or incontinence can usually be treated quite well by temporary immobilization and painkillers. Subsequently, physiotherapy helps to strengthen the muscles and restore mobility.
If the symptoms of your dog's herniated disc do not improve, or if paralysis does occur, surgery is often necessary.
This should definitely be carried out by a specialist veterinarian. Your dog will need several weeks to recover after the operation. During this time, it is important to avoid overstraining your dog and support his recovery with regular physiotherapy.
Healing chances for dogs with herniated discs
If your dog's herniated disc is detected early and treated professionally, the chances of recovery are usually very good. However, in severe cases or with very late diagnosis, permanent damage to the nerves and thus permanent motor disorders may occur.
Avoid a slipped disc in your dog
In the ideal case, of course, you will prevent your dog from a herniated disc from the outset. Because even if complete protection is unfortunately impossible, there are a few things you can do to prevent it.
The following measures can help prevent a herniated disc in dogs:
- Avoid overweight
- No jumping out of the car
- No regular stair climbing
- A warm sleeping place without draught
- Make sure the back is straight when lifting
- Use of a harness instead of a leash
- Regular physiotherapy for already existing back problems
The measures mentioned above are basically useful for all breeds to reduce the risk of a slipped disc. However, they are particularly important in dogs that are naturally susceptible.
Our tip for a healthy locomotor system
In addition to the above tips, it may be useful to support your dog's musculoskeletal system with suitable food supplements as part of the prevention of herniated discs.
We therefore recommend supplementing your dog's diet with Bellfor Joints & Bones. Bellfor Joints & Bones with Ovopet provides your dog with a unique complex of active ingredients with important nutrients for joint health.
In this way Bellfor Joints & Bones can make a valuable contribution to the prevention of herniated discs in dogs. The preparation is available either in the form of capsules or as tasty dog treats made from natural ingredients.