VET’s VIEW: Watch out for back injuries in active dogs

Hendrick, a miniature Dachshund. Photo by Derek Martin

Hendrick, a miniature Dachshund. Photo by Derek Martin

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Ruby’s owner was beside herself.

“It’s just that she was sitting awkwardly on the bed, about to fall off,” she explained, “so I moved her and she squealed! I do hope I haven’t hurt her.”

Ruby, a little Dachshund, had been placed on the examination table in a sitting position from which she seemed to reluctant to move, but I coaxed her gently to her feet and she stood with her back arched.

After checking her over it was clear that she had some pain in her lower back, but all her reflexes were functioning normally and she had no loss of sensation in her hind limbs.

Ruby’s back pain was probably the reason she was sitting awkwardly in the first place, and I reassured her owner that it was not something she had caused.

Back pain is often musculoskeletal in origin, especially in active dogs that may twist when they run or jump for a ball, but can also occur when a small dog lands heavily coming down a step (or maybe jumping off a bed).

However, it is important to exclude pain associated with compression of the spinal cord, such as might be caused by a ‘slipped disc’, as this is potentially a very serious condition, and one to which longer-backed dogs like Dachshunds are prone, so we decided to take some x-rays.

X-rays cannot show the spinal cord itself, but in Ruby’s case we could see that there were no collapsed disc spaces, and all her vertebrae looked normal too.

If I was worried, I could have arranged for her to have an MRI scan.

Dogs that show loss of sensation may require urgent surgery to prevent damage to the spinal cord, but thankfully Ruby responded well to some pain relief and rest.

I just hope she keeps off the bed in future!

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