Intervertebral disc disease in dogs is a degenerative process that can lead to serious back pain and even paralysis. Discs are like soft cushions located between each spinal vertebrae. Before a disc ruptures it becomes stiff or even calcified and then pushes up between the vertebrae compressing the spinal cord. This results in pain and reduced nerve function to the back and/or front legs. Certain breeds of dog are more predisposed to disc disease, including Dachshunds and Pekinese and most affected dogs are middle aged. Signs may appear slowly over days to weeks or occur very suddenly. Back or neck pain is something to be assessed urgently by your vet to check for any nerve deficits and provide immediate pain relief. X-rays may assist the diagnosis but can sometimes appear normal if the disc material has not calcified. If the diagnosis is in doubt or if surgery is to be performed, specialised CT scans are indicated. Treatment depends on the severity of the dogs clinical signs. In mild cases, medical treatment includes anti-inflammatories and strict rest for several weeks. In severe cases, or if there is no improvement with medical treatment, major surgery by a veterinary specialist can be performed to remove the disc material from the spinal canal. Prognosis following surgery depends on the time since the rupture, and if the spinal cord has incurred permanent damage. Even if there is not a full recovery, a paralysed dog may recover sufficient function to allow it a good quality of life. This is Axel the Rottweiler who has had xrays at our clinic for neck pain.
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