There are several breeds that suffer from severe, debilitating back pain and are prone to easily acquiring back issues that, if not corrected early, will lead to back surgery or paralysis. Dogs with the “Hot Dog” look, with longer backs like Corgi or Dachshund are an example, but because breeds are now so intermixed, a lot of dogs have long backs and we need to really educate ourselves and protect our little ones from future back problems. My little dog, Bruce Lee is mix between a Corgi and a Chihuahua. He is definitely longer than he is tall and at only 4 years of age he has already had a lifetime of back issues. You must study your dogs posture, walk and attitude. You know when your dog is happy and pain free, running around with that proud, confident strut. So if you see your dog looking “different” and acting “unusual”, take note.
Signs of back pain:
*When you pick up your dog and your dog screams out.
*If you notice your dogs appetite disappearing, it’s hard for your dog to lower his/her neck to the bowl.
*If your dog is walking with an arched back, we call it the “cat back”.
*You may also see your dog slightly shivering.
*If you notice inactivity in your normally active dog. Sitting a lot during walks.
Unfortunately we saw ALL of these signs with Bruce Lee. When we took him to the Neurosurgeon we were told to do the following preventative / corrective actions and hopefully he would improve. We were also told that if we notice that his condition do not improve or, if we see that he loses the ability to use his legs, he would then need emergency back surgery and to RUSH him immediately to the hospital. Time is critical between the time you notice your dog is quickly deteriorating and the time you can get your dog into corrective surgery to avoid complete paralysis.
Preventative / Corrective Actions:
*Maintain a HEALTHY weight. Any extra weight is the WORST thing for your dogs back and must be corrected immediately.
*Avoid ANY jumping on or off of anything. Beds, couches, stairs, curbs, chairs – all need to be completely avoided. If your dog MUST use stairs or get up and down from a chair, you have to install a hard surfaced ramp. Completely flat surfaces are key.
*Avoid tug-of-war games, wrestling, or other games that will put pressure on your dogs spine. Tug-of-war is bad anyways because it encourages aggression, but it also makes your dog jerk and twist which can easily cause back injury.
*When you pick up your dog, try to keep their back completely straight and horizontally balanced. Put one hand under the abdomen (stomach area) and one hand under the chest and lift keeping both the back end and front end level and balanced.
Unfortunately, one day when we were walking Bruce Lee, he completely lost the use of his back legs and we had to RUSH him to the Neurosurgeon for corrective surgery. He had a herniated disk and the doctor was able to correct the herniation and do preventative treatment to the other disks. It has been a couple months since his surgery and he is doing great. He is gaining strength in his legs again and starting to do longer walks. We are trying to maintain a healthy weight and Bruce Lee has also started water therapy.
Unfortunately, some dogs are just prone to having back issues. Hopefully with preventative treatment you can avoid surgery, but if your dog is in pain and surgery is the only option, luckily there are phenomenal doctors that can save your dogs life by making them happy, healthy and pain free!