Back Pain in Dogs

Back pain is not restricted to people. Dogs suffer from it too. As a matter of fact, it is a common problem that may have complex causes. Back pain can occur suddenly or develop over time; it can be moderate or severe with compromised mobility. The pain may be located within the spinal muscles or the spinal cord membranes (meninges).

Patients with back pain are usually in some discomfort and show difficulty in walking, accompanied by major organic function alteration (defecation or urination, eating or drinking). They are usually stiff and tense with arched back and rigid abdomen or neck position. They exhibit reluctance to go up or down stairs and go on walks or car rides. Some may even vocalize due to pain, still others will have fever due to spinal structure infection.

Back pain can be caused by trauma or disease processes such as intervertebral disc disease, spinal arthritis, spinal muscle inflammation (myositis), tumors, deformities, nerve diseases and meningeal diseases.

Diagnosis may be difficult at times and include physical examination, history, blood tests, imaging (x-rays, CT, MRI), tissue samples and biopsy and sometimes electrodiagnosis (EMG).

The treatment depends on the diagnosis and may be medical (antiinflammatories, pain medication, antibiotics and more) or surgical. The prognosis may be good to poor in case of cancer or permanent nerve damage.

It is important to visit the veterinarian as soon as your pet shows any signs of discomfort or pain. In the following weeks we will address some of the common diseases that cause back pain.

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