Why doxies are not little people with back problems


Neuro Corner Answers


Dr. Andrew Isaacs
DVM Diplomate ACVIM (Neurology)
Dogwood Veterinary Referral Center

Primary interests include intervertebral disc disease, seizure management, luxations/fractures of the spine, and surgery for brain tumors



Hello! Wondering if you can help me with a question? I’ve been asking several vets about IVDD. I have back issues and a herniated disc in my lower back and could barely walk. My Neurodoc gave me an injection of cortisone steroid combo done with a dye injection and xray light. I was pain free within 24 hours and walking fine. Why can’t this be done on our fur babies? Also I hear there is a shock absorber type of injection that works like expansion foam to surround and protect the disc. Thank you for your time and any feed back is appreciated,



This is a good question and highlights some of the differences between canine and human anatomy (spinal cord and intervertebral disks) and the pathology associated with them.

The canine spinal cord extends further down the vertebral column than humans. Therefore, most of the clinical signs in humans with lower back intervertebral disk disease are related to spinal nerve irritation versus spinal cord irritation (spinal nerves are more resilient and more likely to respond to medical management – steroids).

Also, the majority of clinical signs in dogs related to intervertebral disk disease is due to extruded disk material (nucleus pulposus herniating through a rent/tear in the annulus fibrosus) into the spinal canal. On the other hand, in humans the majority of clinical signs is related to protruding intervertebral disk (bulging of the annulus fibrosus and nucleus pulposus).

There are some cases where we do, after the appropriate diagnostics are performed and a diagnosis is obtained, use injections of steroids versus surgery. However, it does require heavy sedation or general anesthesia.

So, the first step with your pet would be to perform imaging of the spine to know exactly what and where the underlying cause is.

Regarding the “expansion foam” injection – due to the tearing of the annulus fibrosus there is the risk of “expansion foam” getting into the spinal canal and causing exacerbation of clinical signs secondary to compression of the spinal cord.

Unfortunately, due to anatomical and pathological differences between canines and humans treatments that help one species do not always translate directly the other species and may actually cause harm.

Thanks for your good question.



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