Spinal cord injuries are common in dogs, and the most common type of spinal cord injury is a disc herniation. Disc herniations can cause anything from minor discomfort to complete paralysis. Rapid detection and treatment are often the difference between a full recovery and permanent damage.
As a pet owner, it is important to be able to recognize signs of a disc herniation or other spinal cord injury. Following are some common signs:
● Arching of the back
● Holding the neck stiff or refusal to turn or lift the head
● Weakness of the legs (most often the hind legs, but any combination is possible)
● Loss of coordination—dragging feet, walking on the knuckles, crossing the feet over, acting “drunk”
● Holding a leg up in the air
● Muscle spasms along the back, neck, or shoulders
● Pain when touching along the back or neck
If you see any of these signs, your dog should be examined by a vet immediately. Early signs of pain can progress to become worse injuries. Any loss of function in the legs (loss of strength or coordination) should be treated as a true emergency, and you should try to take your dog to an emergency clinic if your primary vet is unavailable. IF YOUR DOG HAS SIGNS OF A SPINAL CORD INJURY, IT IS IMPORTANT NOT TO WAIT.
If your vet suspects a spinal cord injury, they may prescribe anti-inflammatory or pain medication, or they may suggest advanced testing and treatment, depending on the severity of signs.