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Dog Back Pain and How to Spot It

Dog back pain is an unfortunately all too common problem in all types of dog breed, and it’s a problem that’s exacerbated as your dog gets older.

There are several different types of back problems in dogs, and they can be caused by degenerative wear or through accidents. Back issues in dogs can cause short-term pain or long-term chronic disabilities. 

Unfortunately, regardless of the specific injury or debilitation causing canine back pain, it is often very difficult to spot. Catching the signs and symptoms of back pain in dogs early on, though, can not only ease the suffering of your pet but prolong their health and mobility. 

In this article, we examine the major causes and signs of back pain in dogs, so you know what to look out for. 

Causes of dog back pain 

Dog pain can have a number of different causes. Dog back injuries can be caused by accidents (such as falling or collisions), by chronic diseases, or simply by wear and tear as the dog gets older.

The most common cause of pain is due to a condition known as intervertebral disc diseases (or IVDD), which can affect dogs over the course of their lifespan. IVDD occurs when the discs in a dog’s spine begin to degenerate. This gets worse as the dog gets older but can also be exacerbated by accidents. IVDD can cause discs to rupture or herniate while also being a source of chronic pain and immobility. 

If there is a back injury in dogs, then it can be caused by IVDD or by one of the following:

1. Dog strained back

This happens when muscles are strained through overexercising or through injury.

2. Dog back infections

Infections can cause the back to swell as bacterial or fungal infections affect the spinal discs.

3. Dog back fractures

Fractures are an incredibly painful and dangerous dog back injury, but thankfully, very rare. They’ll only be caused by severe accidents (such as being hit by a car).

4. Cancer

Cancerous cells and tumors can grow or spread to the spinal column and can prove deadly if left untreated.

Dog back pain symptoms and signs 

It’s important to note that unless your dog has a crippling back injury, such as a fracture, or is bleeding profusely due to an accident, then it’s difficult for owners to diagnose back pain. 

For chronic back pain this is especially pertinent, as symptoms can be mild and remain hidden, only revealing themselves in short bursts if your pet overextends itself. Dogs often put up with pain and emit little noise or show few dog back injury symptoms.

However, if you do notice any of the following symptoms, it’s important to have your dog checked over by a vet. Symptoms may appear mild, but they could be early signs of potentially debilitating conditions that worsen if left untreated. 

Here are the major symptoms and signs to watch out for as a dog owner:

  • Your dog adopts an unnatural, hunched over posture when it stands up or walks.
  • Your dog is limping, drags its legs, or can’t support its own weight.
  • Your dog has difficulty walking or running, or quickly tires (more so than usual). 
  • Your dog is clearly not in control when it’s standing up or walking (a lack of coordination). 
  • Your dog whines or barks if you attempt to pick them up or stroke their back. 
  • Consistent shaking or bursts of uncontrollable shaking - this can result from back muscle spasms or pain caused by IVDD.
  • Visible weakness, lack of action (lethargy), or seeming depression.
  • Visible signs such as swelling or bruising. 

Many of the symptoms of dog sprained back or IVDD are only visible if you monitor your dog over time. For this reason, it’s important to take note of your dog’s behavior when it’s healthy. That way, you’ll better notice when they are tired or fatigued more than usual, or when their posture or actions seem unusual. 

If you do notice changes in attitude or visible signs that your dog hurt his back, then always take a trip to the vet to get them checked over, as many of the above symptoms could indicate other diseases or problems too. 

How to help a dog with back pain

Your dog may need help if it’s to be relieved of its pain either in the short term before you can take them to see a qualified vet or as part of long term dog back pain treatment. 

Vets will often x-ray your dog to ensure that it hasn’t fractured its spine or ruptured any discs. Surgery as a form of dog back pain relief is only carried out when dog back pain medication and other methods of relief aren’t suitable. 

As well as medication for pain or anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling, your vet may suggest you undertake one or more of the following treatments:

Dog massage therapy

Just like humans, dogs can greatly benefit from massage therapy to reduce pain and help back injuries. You can massage your dog’s back at home, but be careful and stop if they start yelping. 

Hydrotherapy

This can help dogs regain their mobility by slowly strengthening their muscles as light resistance is applied in the water. You can try this in the bathtub or find a local hydrotherapy session aimed at pets. 

Stretching

You can use exercise balls or light exercise sessions to improve your dog’s ability to stretch while strengthening their back muscles and spinal cord. 

In the long term, you can also help your dog by providing useful pieces of equipment around the home, such as a dog ramp if they need to get onto beds or sofas. It’s also good to keep an eye on your pet’s weight, as obese dogs carrying more weight around with them are more likely to suffer from chronic back injuries. 

The best dog back pain remedies are regular exercise and a good diet, which lower the chance of your dog suffering from debilitating injuries and diseases. 

How long does it take a dog to recover from back pain?

Dog back injury recovery time really does vary. Minor injuries, such as dog lower back pain brought about by a strain, are likely to recover in a matter of days or weeks, particularly if the dog is young and healthy. 

Older dogs will take longer to recover from minor back pains, while intense injuries brought about by trauma and accidents may require surgery and could take months to properly heal. 

Dog back pain: the last word

Dog back pain is very real for all breeds of dog, particularly as they age, and chronic pains become more prolonged and persistent. Keeping your dog well-fed and exercised through its life will help to offset the chance of long term diseases, however. 

As always, remember to take your pet dog to the vets if you believe they are suffering dog back pain, and bookmark our guide for reference later on!

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