Seven Warning Signs That Your Pet Needs to See a Vet A Guest Blog By Dr. Ed Darrin, (CARES)

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 You can also find CARES on Facebook at


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30 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. That was very, very needful, Dakota. Mom has printed out the 7 symptoms. Thank you !

    • Hi Easy! Your Mom was smart to print that out, thank you!!!!! you are most welcome!! Barks and licks and love, Dakota

  2. That ia such good information. Often problems go undetected not through the lack of love. We use to have a little Dashie, luckily we didn’t have any problems with him but we know people who have. Usually over feeding, killing them with kindness 🙂
    Have a great day xxxxx

    • Mollie oh yes over feeding can cause so many problems, that is something my mom has to keep track of too…Barks and licks and love, Dakota, I forgot to say Barks and licks and love, to Eva too! (Paws aren’t working this morning) BOL!

  3. Thanks for the info! I hope it never happens to me and all my friends though.


    • you are welcome Eva! Me too!

  4. Oh! Me will keeps a eye on the hairy slobbery sisters though. Mommy and Daddy is pretty good about noticing when we is different.

    • Nellie you are right, your Mommy and Daddy are EXCELLENT about noticing changes in ALL of you. They are PURRFECT!!!! Barks and licks and love, Dakota

  5. Great post… lots of good info!

    • thanks!! We were happy to share it! Barks and licks and love, Dakota

  6. Great guest post Karen and a very important one! We’ve seen a lot of dogs come into the vet with spinal cord injuries and one sign that we see is also pain when being picked up under the belly, which a lot of owners then mistake for abdominal pain.

    • Hi Jen!!! Mom said to ask you who “Karen” is???!!! BOL!! And…she apologizes in advance for being a “smart-A–” 🙂

      But…in all seriousness we can only imagine the horrible things that you see, you deal with this on a daily basis. Some people never take their pets to the vet until it is too late and that is horribly sad. Barks and licks and love, Dakota and “Mom”

  7. Very good information to know, thank you.

    • you are welcome Tyler! Barks and licks and love, Dakota

  8. Thanks for sharing these important symptoms to look out for. I was going to say I didn’t need to worry about them since I have large dogs, but you know my luck….!

    • Donna I soooo know! “Knock on wood!!!” Love, “Mom”

  9. Awwwwww what a horrid illness! 😦

    Thanks for the info! Take care

    • yep Old Kitty you are right! Barks and licks and love, Dakota

  10. Good to know! I’d heard the tip about the not lifting the head, but didn’t know the others. Thanks for the info!

    • Thanks Jackie! I am sure they will be happy to know that! Barks and licks and love, Dakota

  11. Good info sweet Dakota. We did not know about all of these only some of them. Hugs and nose kisses

    • Hi Chancy and Mumsy! We are always happy to help out! Barks and licks and love, Dakota and Mom

  12. very informative Dakota!
    I wish I can make such post for turtles but my knowledge is still limited

    • thank you Novroz! I bet you could!! you know more about turtles than anyone that I know! Barks and licks and love, Dakota

  13. […] Does Your Dog’s Back Need Help? 7 signs of disk disease […]

    • thanks for linking to this post! Barks and licks and love, Dakota

  14. I encourage anyone whose furkid is having a back problem to join Dodgers List ( for support and current information from people who have “been there”. If you have a breed that is known for back problems, it sure wouldn’t hurt to familiarize yourself with this great (non-commercial) support group–just in case.

    • Thanks Debbie for sharing your info 🙂 And…while you’re at it….I encourage YOU to follow my other Blog, Cat Chat…. since we are both utilizing self promotion 🙂 BOL!! Barks and licks and love, Dakota and “Mom”

  15. Good information. Can’t have too much.

    • thanks Linda, we couldn’t agree more! Barks and licks and love, Dakota and Mom

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