A herniated disc is an extremely painful injury that usually limits a dog's mobility and can lead to further injury. Dachshunds are particularly susceptible to this affliction because their long bodies place additional stress on the spinal column. The breed tends to be highly active, which increases the risk of injury. Early intervention and treatment is key for relieving the symptoms of a herniated disc. If you think your dog is suffering from a herniated disc, take her to a veterinarian immediately.
About Herniated Discs
The spine is made up of individual bones called vertebrae. The spaces in between the vertebrae are cushioned by small discs that absorb shock and prevent bones from rubbing together. These discs can become damaged by injury, age and trauma. When a disc becomes herniated it may swell, break or deteriorate slowly, increasing tension in the back and, in extreme cases, causing vertebrae to rub together. This can be excruciatingly painful for a dog and increases the dog's chances of developing other injuries such as a broken spinal cord, broken legs and hip problems.
In the early stages of a herniated disc, the most significant symptom for your dog is pain. However, it can be difficult for owners to know if their dogs are in pain or where the pain is coming from. Many owners first notice that their dogs stop eating. Your dog may also whimper when making some movements, or may be less active. Trouble running or jumping may indicate a herniated disc. While these symptoms are also associated with other issues such as muscle injuries and hip dysplasia, any time your dog shows signs of pain he needs to go to the vet.
As a herniated disc bulges or deteriorates more, your dog's symptoms may worsen. You may notice that his back looks hunched or sunken as a result of the decreased support between vertebrae. Some dachshunds begin holding their heads down because of the stress a herniated disc can place on the neck. Your dog may also stop playing altogether and, in serious cases, may have difficulty with even basic movements such as walking or eating.
Herniated discs can't be medically cured without surgery, but the swelling may go down on its own with rest and heat. If your dog is otherwise healthy, your veterinarian may recommend surgery to alleviate the symptoms. Your veterinarian may prescribe medication to alleviate your dog's pain. If the herniated disc is affecting your dog's ability to move, the vet may also recommend physical therapy, which can help prevent secondary injury and teach your dog how to move with a herniated disc without experiencing pain. Applying warm compresses to the affected area and providing your dog with a supportive, soft sleeping place can also help.
- Canine Intervertebral Disk Disease; Patricia J. Luttgen, DVM, MS
- The Merck Veterinary Manual; Cynthia M. Kahn
- dachshund image by Zbigniew Nowak from Fotolia.com