Symptoms and Causes of Back Pain in Dogs
As you may know, our canine companions can experience pain similar to what their human caregivers often experience. Among these problems, back pain deserves plenty of attention. Treating back pain can be simple and very effective, but treatment options will depend entirely on the cause, so it is essential to know the most common ones. In order to help you decide if your pup needs to go to the vet, keep reading and discover the causes, symptoms, and treatment of low back pain in dogs.
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Low Back Pain in Dogs
Back pain in dogs is technically known as low back pain. It is a painful process that affects the lumbosacral area of the animal, that is, the one that includes the last lumbar vertebrae (L5, L6, and L7), as well as the sacral bone, which connects the pelvis with the spine.
In other words, it typically occurs in the most posterior part of the back of the canine, near the tail. The causes are varied, but it is generally known that muscle contracture and inflammatory processes are involved. In more complex cases, back pain in dogs can be associated with compression of the nerve root, leading to more delicate conditions such as spinal cord protrusions and disc herniation.
Causes of Back Pain in Dogs
There are numerous causes of back pain in dogs, including injuries caused by exercise and physical trauma to their bodies. Muscular overload is one of the most frequent, followed by trauma due to a sudden movement or a fall.
But there are also conditions worthy of attention, such as impingement, inflammatory disorders of the vertebrae, osteoarthritis, infections, and tumors in the lumbosacral region. Likewise, other conditions to consider are ankylosing spondylitis, lumbar disc herniation, lumbosacral stenosis, or cauda equina. All of these are influenced by age, breed, body condition, and gender, with males being affected more often.
1. Advanced Age
Regardless of breed, sex, or age, any dog can develop low back pain at some point in their life. However, statistics suggest that this condition is more common in elderly pets due to natural wear and tear on the joints and bones. In addition, diseases such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, also related to aging, are among the more common causes of back pain in dogs.
2. Breed and Confirmation
On the other hand, veterinarians have observed certain breed-defined tendencies for back pain in dogs. Those with bodies made up of a long spine and short legs seem more prone, particularly to the development of herniated discs. This is because their bodies put more pressure on the intervertebral discs than others.
The most vulnerable breeds for developing low back pain are Dachshunds, French Bulldogs, Labradors, German Shepherds, and other large breed dogs.
Being overweight can also cause back pain in dogs, especially those of long-chested, short-legged breeds. Their body might not be adapted for such a heavy load, and, just like in humans, this can lead to chronic pain.
Symptoms of Back Pain in Dogs
Although back pain is a symptom, it is often very difficult for caregivers to identify it as such. The reason is that most dogs do not usually express pain unless it is a very acute injury. However, several behavioral changes can serve to make this diagnosis at home.
Your pet may seem reluctant to climb the stairs that they used to climb so vigorously in the past. Their daily walk may not be enjoyable anymore, and your dog might seem weak or slow when moving. Your dog may also be hesitant to jump up onto the furniture and refuse to play with a favorite toy.
Back pain can cause lethargy, a change from cheerful behavior to a more introverted one, and may even cause aggressive behaviors. Some canines may try to bite if picked them up or if they’re patted on the back.
In general, low back pain in dogs is accompanied by increased tension in the lumbosacral, including increased muscle tone and stiffness. Also, partial or total loss of appetite can be an additional sign of discomfort.
For more information, be sure to read our article on Signs of Pain in Dogs.
Treatment and Prevention of Back Pain in Dogs
Although fluffy pets are adorable, the general recommendation is to avoid weight gain and obesity in breeds that are predisposed to back pain and injury.
Many back injuries occur from exercises that may not be appropriate for specific breeds. Be sure to condition your dog for exercise by starting with short daily walks. If your pup already has a back injury, limit jumping while they recover. Interaction with other pets should also be supervised.
It is also advisable to prevent our dog from running on slippery surfaces, such as tile, linoleum, or wooden floors. If this is not possible, placing rubber or cloth mats may help them feel more secure and prevent falls. And finally, instead of wearing collars, harnesses are more suitable for taking your dog out for a walk if they are recovering from a back injury.
When to Contact a Vet
If you think your pet has back pain, now is the time to act. There are many treatments to help heal it, but a veterinarian needs to examine your dog before trying any of them yourself.
In general, the formal diagnosis of back problems in dogs requires imaging tests that show the affected area in detail, for example, x-ray, MRI, or CT scans. Based on this, your vet will decide if anti-inflammatory medications, a weight loss diet, greater supervision when exercising, or more complex treatments will suffice.
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