Little dogs beware, it’s one of the most common neurological problems in pets and quick action could mean the difference between life and death.
Dr. Ed Darrin, Board Certified Veterinary Neurologist at The Center for Animal Referral and Emergency Services (CARES) says there are Seven Warning Signs for Spinal Cord Injuries that all pet owners should be aware of. Here’s what you need to know:
The condition is a herniated spinal disc, a spinal cord injury that happens most often in smaller breed dogs but can occur in all breeds. The #1 breed where this happens is Dachshunds, with Chihuahuas, Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, and Shih Tzus also experiencing it more often.
Disc disease requires prompt diagnosis and treatment to prevent permanent paralysis or other long-term problems for the pet and its owner. This most often happens in middle age, from about age six on, however it can happen in dogs as young as two.
As a pet owner, it is important to be able to recognize signs of a disc herniation or other spinal cord injury. Here are the top 7 symptoms:
● Arching of the back
● Holding the neck stiff or refusal to turn or lift the head
● Weakness of the legs (most often the hind legs, but any combination is possible)
● Loss of coordination—dragging feet, walking on the knuckles, crossing the feet over, acting “drunk”
● Holding a leg up in the air
● Muscle spasms along the back, neck, or shoulders
● Pain when touching along the back or neck
If you see any of these signs, your dog should be examined by your family veterinarian immediately to determine if it needs to be referred to a veterinary neurologist. Early signs of pain can progress to become worse injuries. Any loss of function in the legs (loss of strength or coordination) should be treated as a true emergency, and you should try to take your dog to an emergency clinic if your primary vet is unavailable. IF YOUR DOG HAS SIGNS OF A SPINAL CORD INJURY, IT IS IMPORTANT NOT TO WAIT.
If your vet suspects a spinal cord injury, they may prescribe anti-inflammatory or pain medication, or they may suggest advanced testing and treatment, depending on the severity of signs. For severe disc problems, specialty care is necessary for the best chance of recovery. Advanced imaging, such as MRI, can be used to diagnose the problem, and the most serious cases require spinal surgery. Primary care veterinarians will typically refer you to a board-certified veterinary neurologist for such procedures.
About the Center for Animal Referral and Emergency Services (CARES): CARES is a full service specialty referral, 24-hour emergency and critical care veterinary hospital, with one clear goal: to provide a gold standard of care for your pet. Our highly trained, hand selected and compassionate team of veterinarians pride themselves in collaboration between the CARES specialties as well as the referring veterinarian. By engaging multiple, dedicated professionals in the care of your pet, CARES provides the latest, most advanced and best treatments available. Specialty and referral services include: Anesthesiology, The Cancer Center at CARES, Cardiology, Clinical Pathology, Dermatology, Internal Medicine, Neurology, Ophthalmology, Radiology and Surgery. Specialty cases are seen by referral from the primary care veterinarian. CARES also offers 24 hour emergency care. For more information, visit www.vetcares.com. You can also find CARES on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/CARESvet.