Degenerative Disc Disease in Dogs

Is your dog reluctant to move, even to get up to play? Degenerative disc disease in dogs causes dogs to experience pain in their spine and become hesitant to move. Your dog may laze around for a couple of days to allow the body to solve the issue, usually without you knowing that there was a problem. If you think your dog is having spinal problems, have him or her checked by a vet to rule out degenerative disc disease.


What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?


Degenerative disc disease is a loss of function of the spinal discs. Spinal discs are stretchable tissues between the small bones that form the spine or backbone. The tissues support your dog’s back and allow it to move up and down or sideways while barring contact between the spinal bones.


Therefore, degeneration causes the discs to become less capable of providing support and cushion to the bones of the backbone. When this happens, your pup experiences swelling, pain, and inability to move.


What Are the Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease in Dogs?


Although dogs are quite tolerant to pain and tend to hide their pain, there are telltale signs that will tell whether your pup is in pain from degenerative disc disease.


Look out for the following indicators of degenerative disc disease:


  • Back or neck pain

  • Any kind of limping

  • Yelping when you try to pet or pick him or her up

  • Inability to lift the head fully

  • The appearance of stiffness or a hunched back

  • Lost bladder control

  • Weak or clumsy movement in all four limbs

  • Shivering or panting

  • Immobility in all four limbs or trouble breathing in serious cases


Treating Degenerative Disc Disease in Dogs


Various treatments can help alleviate symptoms caused by degenerative disc disease, including:


Medications and Physical Therapy


The first stage of the disease is mild and can usually heal on its own within a few days.


The second and third stages of the disease cause moderate to severe discomfort in the neck or lower back as well as partial paralysis. These two stages are usually treated with anti-inflammatory medication, pain relievers, and physical therapy.




Surgery comes in when the disease causes paralysis. Both the fourth and fifth stages of degenerative disc disease in dogs cause paralysis. However, stage four causes paralysis, but your dog retains his or her ability to feel. Although dogs with stage four of the disease require surgery, some dogs recuperate without it.


Dogs with stage five should undergo surgery right away because the paralysis at that stage is critical and causes loss of sensation or feeling. Surgery should be done within 24 hours of the start of paralysis.


Is Your Dog at Risk for Degenerative Disc Disease?


Certain dog breeds seem to be genetically predisposed to the disease, but scientists do not know whether the disease is hereditary. Dogs breeds with short and bent legs and long backs, such as the Dachshund and Pekinese, seem to be at a higher risk of the disease compared to other dog breeds.


To learn more about degenerative disc disease in dogs, contact Van Lue Veterinary Surgical in Oviedo, FL at (321) 348-6300 to book an appointment.

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