Back injuries in dogs are a lot more common than you might think. If you have a small breed prone to back problems (like Dachshunds or Beagles) you already know this.
But you might not even know that you have a breed that is subject to back issues.
And even if your dog isn’t prone to back injury, ANY dog can slip on ice or fall and hurt their back.
And treatment can cost thousands of dollars!
Did you know that every year 500 THOUSAND pets have to be put down due to “economic euthanasia”?
That means that for 500,000 people every year, they have to say goodbye to a pet because they can’t afford treatment for an injury or illness.
That’s a shame!
One way you can costly vet bills and a hurt best friend is to take some preventive care for your dogs to make sure you minimize the chance of an injury.
Since our family has dachshunds, back injury is always on our minds. But if you don’t have a dachshund you aren’t out of the woods when it comes to dog back injuries.
So today’s post is all about how you can protect your dog from injury, what dogs are most subject to back problems and what you can do about it.
What Causes Back Problems or Injury in Dogs?
According to vets, the most common type of back injury in dogs is called IVDD, or Intervertebral Disc Disease.
IVDD happens when one or more of the discs that act as cushions between the vertebrae degenerate.
When the disks go bad this can lead to spinal compression which leads to pain and loss of some mobility and in extreme cases loss of all mobility.
Lower back and neck (cervical) spinal compression is the most common injury or condition in dogs.
There are two types of IVDD among dogs.
The first type happens in “dwarfed” breeds of dogs. These are dogs that have been engineered to be shorter / smaller than they would be in nature.
Dwarfed dogs won’t have normal cartilage development.
So what happens with these types of breeds is basically the cartilage is deformed and leads to the IVDD condition.
Type II IVDD is less common and comes about more with old age disk degeneration later in the dog’s life.
Dog Breeds With Back Problems
If you have one of the dog breeds with back problems that are listed below, you have to pay more attention to your dog's behavior than normal.
Dachshund parents know the dangers of having a best friend with a long spine. It means back problems are almost a guarantee.
But there are many other breeds that are prone to back issues too, and you might not even be aware.
Typical breeds that experience type I IVDD (Back Problems)
If you are the parent to one of these breeds or any other breed that has been made shorter and smaller with genetic engineering, be aware that back problems are possible at some point in your lil’ buddy’s life.
How Can Intervertebral Disc Disease in Dogs be Treated or Prevented?
Once your dog has a back problem or injury, sometimes the only treatment is surgery or specialty equipment like a brace.
There may also be chiropractic procedures that will help depending on the severity of the injury.
The easiest thing you can do for your dog is to try to limit the ways his back can be hurt in the first place.
If you can avoid the injury then you will avoid having to deal with surgery or other expensive procedures to help your dog’s back issues.
The following are some of the most common ways that you can help prevent your dog from hurting his/her back.
Recent studies have shown that 53% of America’s dogs are overweight.
The studies also showed that a whopping 93% of pet parents don’t even realize they have overweight dogs.
Just like humans that are overweight, obesity can cause back problems in your dog.
Obesity in dogs can cause all sorts of health problems like diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, skin disease and back issues to name a few.
So for the sake of your dog’s health, it's a good idea to make sure they aren’t overeating and getting plenty of exercise
Since you might not be sure if their dog is obese or not, below is a handy chart you can use as a guide to check your best buddy.
If you’ve checked the chart and think your dog is overweight or obese, the best thing you can do is check with your vet.
Your vet will be able to tell you exactly how much your dog should be eating per day or at least should be able to refer you to a dog nutrition specialist so you can find out.
Supplements for Joint Health
Another way to strengthen your dog’s back to prevent injury is with the use of supplements.
One type of supplement for dogs that is growing in popularity is CBD, or cannabidiol.
Since CBD is relatively new and so little is known about how it works, how about we take a quick crash course in what it is, what it isn’t and what researchers know about CBD for pets.
What is CBD?
CBD stands for cannabidiol ...a compound that is found in hemp and cannabis plants.
Isn’t that the same as “weed” (marijuana)?
Not at all.
Most CBD products come from hemp and not from cannabis. CBD does not have the psychoactive compound THC in it.
THC is the compound that makes people feel “high” and the reason it is against federal law.
CBD on the other hand has no chance of any “high” feeling and is legal for sale in the U.S. as long as it does not contain the THC compound.
How does CBD affect dogs?
Now for the confusing news. Researchers don’t know yet exactly what CBD can do for pets or humans.
The reason for this is simply because it is so new that researchers have not had a chance to conduct proper studies with it yet.
What that means is that all of the data we currently have on CBD and it’s uses come from people who are trying it out and reporting their findings.
Proper clinical studies take years and millions of dollars. And due to laws that are still in effect it’s still not easy for researchers to study the compound in the same way that other supplements or products are studied.
What dog health problems can be treated by CBD?
Since there aren’t any studies yet, the only information we have to go on is anecdotal evidence.
This means the information we now have comes from pet parents that have tried CBD and are reporting what they learned.
But the results are very promising for many people.
At this time CBD is being used for dogs because of its anti-inflammatory properties (joint health), cardiac benefits, anti-nausea properties, anxiety issues, increased appetite and even anti-cancer properties.
The American Kennel Club’s Canine Health Foundation (CHF) is even conducting its own study of CBD for the specific use in seizure treatment for dogs that do not respond to any other available drugs on the market.
If you decide to try CBD products to treat your dog for any condition or just for supplemental health it is advised to start with small doses and work from there.
How does CBC work in dogs?
Humans and dogs both have what is called an Endocannabinoid System in our bodies.
Researchers have learned that our (and our dogs) brains have receptors in our brains that respond to cannabis.
People and dogs also have many other receptors in our brains that respond to other treatments.
This is how every other drug that you can get from your pharmacy works.
What this means is that for humans and dogs and other living things, cannabis, CBD etc have a built-in reaction within our bodies that are believed by many to promote better health, healing and treatment for many ailments.
Putting it all together - CBD and dogs:
Even though we don’t have a bunch of scientific studies yet, we know from a lot of anecdotal evidence that CBD is helpful to many dogs and their parents for a wide range of health issues.
It is highly believed that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties. This means that CBD products for your dog can help reduce inflamed joints in your dog which will give him or her more mobility.
More mobility means stronger joints and muscles which in-turn means less of a chance of injury.
If you are trying to keep your 4 legged lil’ buddy as healthy as possible and strong to avoid problems like back injury then CBD is something you can consider as preventative and reactive medicine.
It can help curb some health issues while treating issues that have already affected your dog.
Ramps and Stairs for Dogs to Prevent or Treat Back Problems
If you have a short dog with stubby legs then a great way to prevent injury is to try a ramp or steps.
If you have a smaller type breed dog then even some stairs/steps can cause problems. The issue is that some steps (including the stairs in your home) are steep and short.
Because of this design, when your dog’s front paws are on one step their back paws are on a different step.
This can put a strain on the spine and cause injury.
There are a few solutions to this problem:
Ramps are a simple way to help your dog get up on the couch or bed without you having to pick him up. If you try a dog ramp you may have to train your dog to use it properly.
Some dogs won’t get right away that the ramp is for their safety so even though he might use it to get up on a couch, he might hear the doorbell and jump off the couch without using the ramp.
A little bit of training will get your dog used to using the ramp instead of flying off the couch.
But with some simple training techniques you should be able to get your dog using a ramp in no time.
If steps are more your speed, there are steps/stairs that are designed for small dogs called “deep steps”.
This type of step is great for small dogs because the steps are deeper / longer.
What this means is the dog can get more paws on each step instead of the front paws being up several steps above the back paws.
This longer design puts less stress on the spine and is a great solution for small and medium dogs that need to get up on a couch without a heavy ramp.
Slippery Surfaces can be Dangerous for Dogs
Especially Ones With Back Problems
Did you know that your dog can slip on laminate flooring like they can slip on ice?
Since dogs have 4 legs you might assume (like I did) that falling on a slippery surface would be a lot harder than you’d think.
But the truth is that dogs slip on laminate flooring and other hard and smooth surfaces all the time.
When your dog does slip on a surface the injury can be as mild as a bruise if you’re lucky.
The most common slipping injuries are more serious and include pulled or torn muscles or ligaments, bone or joint injuries, aggravation of already swollen joints to damaged nerves and soft tissue.
Some slipping injuries can require surgery even.
Your best course of action is to do everything you can to prevent injury in the first place.
How to Prevent Your Dog From Slipping on Hard Surfaces?
There are a few ways you can help to give your dog more traction indoors and out. From socks/shoes to simple tips, let’s talk about how you can keep your dog from slipping and getting hurt.
1) Keep nails trimmed - Dogs use their paw nails for traction. If the nail is short they can get more gripping action.
On a hard slippery surface like laminate / wood flooring even the best trimmed toe nails won’t give much extra traction, but if they’re trimmed you’re giving your dog the best grip possible.
2) Keep foot pad hair trimmed - If you have a long haired dog check his paws. If there’s a lot of long fur on the bottom of his pads, this could be like wearing slippers.
Keep the hair in between the paws trimmed as much as possible so that the pad and nails are the only part of the foot touching the floor.
3) Use floor runners for added traction - If you have laminate floors you already know they can be slippery. In high traffic areas where your dog goes you can try a floor runner.
A runner or piece of carpet will save wear and tear on the floor while giving you and your dog some extra traction in those areas.
The same goes for your dog’s area where she naps or rests. Older dogs sometimes have a hard time getting up from their bed (don’t we all!).
To help make it easier, having a blanket or run or something with more grip near her bed will give some much needed extra traction for your dog when nap time is over.
4) Maintain a healthy weight - If your dog is overweight, there is extra stress on his or her joints. This makes walking harder and increases the chance for a slip and fall.
The best thing you can do for your dog’s overall health is to make sure his/her weight is where it should be.
Talk to your vet or a dog nutrition expert to determine your dog’s ideal weight to ward off the possibility of slipping, obesity, diabetes and the other conditions that are related to being overweight.
5) Shoes / Socks for added grip - Do you think that shoes or socks for dogs are silly and unnecessary?
We thought that too. Until our dog Molly stepped on a sticker and it cost us $400 at the vet due to a swollen paw.
Now our dogs only go for walks with shoes on!
There are tons of shoes and socks available for dogs.
Some are made just for fashion and some are made for extra grip and paw protection.
Pain Medication Used to Treat Back Problems & More
If your dog has already been injured from falling on a slippery surface your vet will probably give you some pain medication to help him feel better.
Hopefully you won’t have to give pills for the rest of your dog’s life due to pain from an injury.
Our mission is to help you prevent injury in the first place, so your vet is the best person to ask about pain pills or other types of medications to treat the pain from a fall.
A back injury in your dog can range from a minor inconvenience to a devastating injury requiring surgery, pain medications or more.
While some breeds and ages of dogs are more likely to develop back issues, the best thing you can do for your dog’s health is to help protect them before injury happens.
Something as simple as adding a ramp or stairs next to your couch or trying som anti-slip shoes or socks could make a huge difference in your dog’s traction.
If your dog is prone to back issues then a supplement to strengthen his joints might be all you need to make sure your dog’s back is in tip top shape.
Eliminating the possibility for injury goes a long way in keeping your dog as safe and happy as possible.
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