Canine Spinal Injuries

Canine spinal injuries can be caused by a variety of circumstances, including trauma, congenital malformations, and degenerative diseases. 

Traumatic injuries are the most common cause of spinal injury and can be caused by a variety of events such as automobile accidents, falls, other injuries, and animal attacks. 

Congenital defects can include intervertebral disc disease, which is a condition where the discs between the spine’s vertebrae don’t form correctly or are unable to handle weight and stress placed on them. 

Degenerative diseases can cause spinal injury in older dogs, such as degenerative myelopathy, a slowly progressive condition that leads to weakness or paralysis in their hind legs.

Symptoms of Canine Spinal Injuries

Symptoms of spinal injuries vary depending on the cause and severity of their injury, but generally can include:

  • Limb weakness 
  • Neck or back pain
  • Sensation loss or movement loss in their limbs
  • Difficulty walking
  • Incontinence
  • Seizures

Depending on the area of the spinal injury, symptoms can be more severe in some areas than others. For example, an injury to the lumbar spine, which is located on the lower back area, can cause weakness or paralysis in their hind legs. It’s important to get veterinary care as soon as possible if you notice any of these symptoms in your dog.

Diagnosing Canine Spinal Injuries

Diagnosing spinal injuries can be difficult because it can be hard for the veterinarian to pinpoint a specific injury without performing imaging tests such as an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI. These tests allow the vet to see inside their body and get a better picture of what is happening with the spine. Your veterinarian might also recommend blood tests and neurological exams in order to better understand the injury.

Stages of Canine Spinal Injuries

Spinal injuries can be broken down into three stages of severity: mild, moderate, and severe.

Stage 1

Mild cases usually involve minor damage to the spine or soft tissues and nerves in the area.

Stage 2

Moderate cases involve damage to the vertebrae or discs and can cause the nerve roots to become irritated or inflamed.

Stage 3

Severe cases involve a complete loss of movement or sensation in one or more limbs and can need extensive treatment.

Treating Canine Spinal Injuries

Treating spinal injuries is dependent on the cause and severity of their injury. Mild cases can usually be treated with rest and anti-inflammatory medications. In moderate to severe cases, surgery could be needed to repair damage to the vertebrae or discs in order to relieve pressure on the nerves. Physical therapy can also help with recovery and strengthening their limbs. In some cases, the injury will be permanent and treatment should focus on improving quality of life rather than a complete cure.

Preventing Canine Spinal Injuries

The best way to prevent spinal injuries is to take steps to ensure your dog is well cared for and safe. This means avoiding activities that can cause injury, such as rough play or jumping from heights, and giving them a safe environment with no hazardous objects or slippery surfaces. It’s also important to keep your dog’s vaccinations up to date in order to protect against certain diseases that can affect their spine.

If your dog does have a spinal injury, treatment will depend on the cause and severity of their injury. Treatments can include medications to reduce inflammation and pain, physical therapy, or surgery if there is damage to their vertebrae or discs. With proper care and rehabilitation, many dogs can make a full recovery from their injuries.