At first signs of pain
STRICT rest at once. Get to vet ASAP.
When you first suspect a back problem (shivering/trembling, yelping, reluctant to move, arched back, head held high or low, wobbly walk), get him to a vet asap.
Transport carefully using a crate padded out with rolled up towels on either side of the dog to prevent movement or jarring the spine when braking or turning corners.
Crating will help keep the dog from further injuring the spinal cord that could potentially lead to paralysis and loss of bladder control.
Your dog MUST be under care of a vet.
Don’t wait, minutes and hours matter…and if you lack confidence in your vet or seem to be getting nowhere, don’t hesitate to ask for a second opinion or, better yet, a referral to a specialist (neuro or ortho), as these specialists see many cases of back problems daily.
You must inform your vet about everything you are giving your dog:
Meds food, AND supplements. This is to avoid any possible side effects caused by interaction with any of those substances. Your vet MUST be made aware of what you are doing, even if it seems insignificant to you.
Know there IS good hope
Whether surgery is an option or not. It is also important to know that in the unlikely case that your dog becomes paralyzed permanently, a happy, comfortable and excellent quality of life is made possible with a wheelchair.
Wheelchair dogs can do it all!
Directory of board-certified neuros
- Find board certified Neurology (ACVIM) surgeons here: http://find.vetspecialists.com
- Find ACVS board certified ortho veterinary surgeons here: https://online.acvs.org/acvsssa/rflssareferral.query_page?P_VENDOR_TY=VETS
- Vet recommendations and surgical costs from Dodgerslist members: http://dodgerslist.boards.net/board/13/member-reported-surgery-costs-recommendations
No or low interest credit
for veterinary costs can be obtained from Care Credit https://www.carecredit.com/faqs/. You find out online if you qualify.
Time is of the essence
Especially if your dog’s legs are paralyzed and there is a loss of deep pain sensation (DPS). The last, best chance for a good surgical outcome is within a window of 12-24 hours from losing the last of neuro functions, DPS. Even after that window of time, there can still be a good outcome. Each hour that passes decreases that chance. Precious hours can be lost with a vet that gets DPS wrong.
As damage to the spinal cord increases
Monitor for the predictable step-wise deterioration of functions:
- Pain caused by the tearing disc & inflammation in the spinal cord
- Wobbly walking, legs cross
- Nails scuffing floor
- Paws knuckle under
- Legs do not work (paralysis, dog is “down”)
- Bladder control is lost, can no longer sniff and then release urine
- Tail wagging with joy is lost
- Loss of deep pain sensation (DPS), the last neuro function. A general vet is not qualified to assess if a dog is a candidate for surgery but is qualified to refer you to a specialist. Only a board certified ortho or neuro surgeon can advise you on surgery. DPS, the last neuro function, is a critical indicator for nerves to be able to self heal after surgery or with conservative treatment. If surgery is not an option (for whatever reason) then the best option is conservative therapy. Surgery can still be successful in the window of 12-24 hours after loss of DPS. Even after that window of time, there can still be a good outcome. Each hour that passes decreases that chance. Precious hours can be lost with a vet that gets DPS wrong. Trust only the word of a neuro (ACVIM) or ortho (ACVS) surgeon about DPS.
A quick overview of conservative treatment vs. a surgery:
Neither surgery nor conservative treatment (medications and crate rest) are “guaranteed” to work.
If surgery is not an option, do not give up hope because many dogs have recovered with medications and 100% STRICT crate rest 24/7 for 8 weeks. Join the Dodgerslist support group to learn how to care for your dog during a disc problem. http://dodgerslist.boards.net/
Recovery Suite with room service! Limited movement–crate rest protects the spinal cord from further damage and allows the disc to heal during the 8 weeks of crate rest during conservative treatment.
Recovery suite size and Potty time
The restricted area (ex-pen, crate, etc.) should be approximately enough room to stand up, turn around, and when lying down fully stretch out the legs. The dog must stay in the STRICT rest 24/7 to protect the spinal cord. Carry to and from potty place. Stand in one spot. Allow your dog to only take minimal steps with harness and a 6′ leash. Complete details on how to implement crate rest: https://dodgerslist.com/2020/05/14/strict-rest-recovery-process/
Your vet should discuss known side effects and run proper tests before administering NSAIDs. NSAIDs can become toxic to the liver and kidneys very quickly in some dogs.
- ETOGESIC (etodolac)
- RIMADYL (carprofen)
- METACAM (meloxicam)
- DERAMAXX (deracoxib)
- PREVICOX (firocoxib)
- ZUBRIN (tepoxalin)
- NOVOX (carprofen)
- Prednisone, Prednisolone
- Dexamethasone (AZIUM, VOREN)
- methylprednisolone (SOLU-MEDROL)
- Triamcinolone Acetonide (VETALOG)
- Prednisolone Sodium Succinate (SOLU-DELTA )
A steroid or NSAID can be very harmful to the stomach lining and intestines. NSAIDs should never be prescribed with a steroid. These two classes of anti-inflammatories should be accompanied by a stomach protector such as over-the-counter Pepcid AC (famotidine).
Safe vets use a washout time of 4-7 days when switching between the two
classes of anti-inflammatory drugs:
NSAID<—>NSAID or NSAID<—>Steroid