Dog back pain - causes, symptoms, management and treatments

Dog Back Pain: Causes, Signs, Management And Treatment

Dog back pain can occur, as a result of traumatic spinal injuries or diseases of the intervertebral disk as back pain is a relatively common condition in the canine world.

Dog back problems can arise gradually or suddenly, with the problem ranging in from being inconvenient, to disabling.

Back pain occurs in every breed, although some breeds are more predisposed to back pain than others. For instance, breeds like Dachshunds, Pugs, and French bulldogs.

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Accordingly, the mentioned breeds are genetically predisposed to a condition called Chondrodystrophy.

Chondrodystrophy is a condition, that increases the chances of the degeneration of the discs between the spinal vertebrae with time.

Symptoms of Dog back problem

Different types of dogs and how to manage their health
When your dogs are healthy, they play to keep the home warm

As a dog owner, you want to know the signs of back pain in your dog, so you can know how to help. However, back problems in various dogs, have similar symptoms, regardless of the cause of the pain.

So, below are some of the symptoms of dog back pain:

  • Increased pacing behavior
  • Reluctance or inability to rise or walk
  • Arched back
  • Difficulty urinating or inappropriate elimination
  • Changes in posture
  • Vocalizations of pain when moving
  • Reluctance to move the head
  • Weakness
  • Yelping or whining when touched
  • Wobbly or unusual gait

Causes of Dog back pains

In the canine world, indeed, some several diseases and disorders can lead to back pain and spine immobility in dogs.

So, what are the common causes of back pains in dogs? Here they are:

Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative Myelopathy is a progressive disease, that is ultimately found in older animals. The disease degenerative myelopathy has an onset of about age eight to fourteen years. Signs of degenerative myelopathy usually starts with weakness, and a slight loss of coordination in the back legs, this, then progresses to complete paralysis in the hind legs. These often happen with six months to a year of the onset of the disease.


Arthritis attacks any joints of the body, including those of the spine. For instance, spinal injuries that occur during the early stage of development in a dogs cycle can predispose a dog to have spinal arthritis, later in its period.

Intervertebral Disk Disease

Intervertebral Disk Disease is a disease that goes by several names. Such as, herniated, slipped, or prolapsed disc disease. Intervertebral Disk Disease occurs, when the cushions of the spine, that is, the fluid-filled discs become damaged.

Intervertebral Disk Disease can be chronic or acute, occurring suddenly or gradually. However, the symptoms vary depending on the part of the spine the damage has occurred.


Injuries to the back of a dog result in a lot of conditions. Such as those, that can occur in pinched nerves, bruises, ruptured disks, and muscle strains, including fractures to the vertebrae.


Spondylosis is a disease of old age in dogs, in which the vertebrae have bone spurs growing on them. Consequently causing difficulty and pain in moving.

Diagnosis: How to Diagnose Back Problems in Dogs

A veterinarian is the one who can accurately diagnose back problems in your dog. The diagnostic process of your visit with the Veterinarian starts with a complete physical examination of your dog.

Dog back pain
A vet carrying out diagnosis on dog back pain

To enable the Veterinarian to evaluate the condition of your dog, ascertain the severity and location of the pain.

The diagnostic process also involves a biochemical profile of your dog, a urinalysis, and a complete blood count. These tests expose any underlying conditions, possibly causing your dog’s pain.

Techniques like magnetic resonance imaging technology (MRI), computer tomography (CT), a myelogram, and an x-ray with a special dye injected around the dog’s spine, are used accordingly to aid the visualization of the causes of dog back pain, including the joints and bones along the spine.

If the cause of the dog back pain is suspected to be arthritis, consequently, the Veterinarian may decide to take a sample of the synovial fluid for evaluation.

The synovial fluid lubricates the joints. A neurological examination may also be done, especially in instances, where a dog is experiencing total or partial paralysis.

Management of Dog Back Pain Problems

Disorders like degenerative myelopathy, some injuries, and unattended ruptured discs, can cure dog back pain but can be managed with the aid of therapeutic tools and medications.

The following tips can help in managing your dog back pain.

Shed that fat off!

Most importantly, weight loss is the best thing you can do for your dog. Help your dog shed the extra pounds and be in the healthy weight range.

Moreover, a dog with excess weight has more strain on its back and is prone to additional problems. You should talk to your Veterinarian about helping your pup lose weight.

Monitor Exercise

Dog playing a ball race exercise
A dog on an exercise routine

An exercise routine is essential for pups with back pain, the same way it is for people. Nonetheless, as a dog owner, you may need to limit the use of short leash works with your dog.

Also, less leaping, running, and other motions that could worsen your dog’s condition.

Also read: Can Dogs Eat Pickles? Are Pickles Bad for Dogs

Get a Harness

Harnesses give room for more assistance, plus they are super comfy. There is a myriad of harnesses out there, with different extra accessories suitable for each dog, some harnesses have handles at the rear.

Thus providing extra support at the dog’s hindquarters during walks, potty breaks, and regular movement around the house.

Limit Slippery Surfaces

Dogs suffering from back pain, usually have difficulty walking. And, this difficulty is significantly increased when walking on slippery surfaces such as linoleum, tile, or hardwood floors.

Investing in the use of carpets and rubber mats can aid your dog, in moving around the house quickly and safely.

Invest in a ramp

Ramps are an excellent and easy way to help your dog move around, and get up and down especially stairs.

Dog on a ramp, to help climb on and off furniture
Dog on a house ramp

As these are usually problematic and strenuous for dogs with back pain. Also, ramps can help a dog that like jumping, get on and off the bed or the couch.

Pain Management

If your dog back pain is severe, you can consequently manage it with drugs or medications like NSAIDs. It is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like aspirin. A drug that treats nerve pain like gabapentin.

Drugs for dog example NSAID
Give prescribed drugs to your dogs

Accordingly, these drugs provide relief for your pup. It is worthy of note, to never give two NSAIDs at once. As this consequently leads to dangerous and life-threatening effects.

Also if you are switching from one NSAID to another, ensure you adhere to the washout period of about three days. As this will enable the first drug to leave your pup’s system. Always consult your veterinarian before giving your dog any drugs.

Treatments: How to Treat Dog Back Pain Problems

Procedures for the treatment of dog canine problems
A dog being treated for back pain by a Vet

As a dog owner, if you see your dog yelping in pain, and you suspect it’s back pain. You should, accordingly limit your dog’s activity, and schedule a visit to a Veterinarian as soon as possible.

After the visit to the Veterinarian, and the concluding diagnosis. Here are some of the treatments and techniques the Veterinarian might recommend to get your dog back up to speed.

Treatment of dog back pain usually depends on the underlying condition. Conditions such as intervertebral disc disease, spondylosis, and some arthritis cases, often require surgery as the successful treatment option.

Other instances like, muscle strains, and mild arthritis, are accordingly treated with hydrotherapy and therapeutic massage.

Hydrotherapy and therapeutic massage” methods are also known as alternative treatment methods. And they are usually accompanied by anti-inflammatory medications. To alleviate pain and bring about a reduction in swelling.

Below are some of the benefits of alternative treatment methods for dog back pain:

Physical therapy

Physical therapy takes various forms. Your Veterinarian can help create a different exercise routine, tailored to the specific needs of your dog. Physical therapy has a significant role to play, in relieving back pain, as it stretches the part of the body that are tight, and also strengthens the weak parts.

This therapy also assists in speeding up the body’s healing ability and has the potential to aid pet parents and their dogs in avoiding a potentially expensive and excruciating surgery.

Physical therapy also involves the application of heat or ice to the affected part.

To help alleviate the pain due to the effectiveness of physical therapy and the use of heat or ice, Veterinarians, consequently advise pet owners to place a low-power heating pad on their dog’s back for some minutes every hour.


Hydrotherapy is virtually similar to physical therapy; the only difference is that the exercises are performed in water.

Hydrotherapy leverages on the buoyancy of the water, to aid in reducing the pressure on joints and muscles. Thus allowing the joints and muscles to regain its range of motion and strength while reducing the strain.

Hydrotherapy also helps to reduce back pain by assisting in the stimulation of blood flow and consequently bringing more oxygen to the affected area and assists in boosting the body’s natural healing ability.

Laser therapy

Laser therapy is also another route to stimulating the body’s natural healing processes, and even promoting the release of stem cells. As the light energy from a laser falls on the damaged cells, it results in stimulating blood flow to the area. Thereby bringing more oxygen to the area and improving muscle and nerve function.


This therapy works with ultrasound machines, which is a medium that transmits the sound waves for healing. The waves cause heat, resulting in blood flow to the affected part; thereby reducing inflammation, swelling, and pain. Ultrasound is usually used to treat back pain, that develops from difficult to reach places. Because it works at a deeper level compared to laser therapy.

Recovery of Dog back pain

Often, the forecasts or prognoses for dog back pains are varied. As some of the conditions are quite difficult to treat, requiring the need for surgery.

Dog back pain
A happy recovered dog and a Vet

Thus, the forecasts for disorders that affect the back are quite variable, and while some of the conditions are easily treated. Others usually require extended healing periods due to a surgical intervention being the treatment option.

During the recuperation period, it is necessary or recommended that the dog is in a calm and quiet environment.

With water and food always kept close by, this helps the dog recuperate faster. Subsequently, the dog will also require some assistance in daily activities, like getting up and down the stairs, and getting outside to relieve themselves.

Dog owners are advised to follow their Veterinarian’s prescriptions, concerning their dog’s diet, exercise routines, and medications as these are crucial for their dog’s recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions about Dog Back Pain

How do I know my Dog has a back problem?

You will be able to tell that your dog has a back problem, by being observant of your dog, and noticing its symptoms.

What are the symptoms of Dog back problem?

The symptoms of Dog back problems are; increased pacing behavior, reluctance or inability to rise or walk, arched back, changes in posture, vocalizations of pain when moving, weakness, yelping or whining when touched, etc.

Can all Dog back problems be Treated?

No, not all dog’s back problems can be cured. For example, back problems caused by degenerative myelopathy can not be cured, but such conditions can be managed.

How can I manage my Dog’s back problems?

Your veterinarian will be better advise you on how to manage your dog back problem, based on the specific needs of your dog. Here are some of the ways by which you can manage your dog’s back pain:
>> Invest in a ramp to aid movement around the house
>> Monitor your dog’s exercise to help strengthen the bones
>> If your dog is overweight
>> Help the dog shed weight, as excess weight increases the problem.

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