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We Asked a Vet How to Prevent Back Pain in Your Dog | BetterVet

Are some dogs more likely to get back pain?

Did you know some dogs are more prone to back issues than other dogs? This is important when thinking about what breed you would like to own. Dogs who are more prone to back problems include Dachshunds, Corgis, Shih-Tzus, and Beagles. These breeds all have long backs with small legs. If you choose one of these breeds, they may suffer back issues such as intervertebral disk disease. 

If you're not sure what conditions a dog is predisposed to, talking to a BetterVet online will give you instant access to this information. 

Breeds like the French Bulldog can have congenital malformations of the spine. Only buy a puppy from a reputable breeder who has health certificates to prove their breeding stock is in perfect health. Do not buy a puppy from a breeder who has a congenital malformation of the spine in any of their breeding dogs. 

 

How to prevent back pain in dogs

Ensure your dog is at a healthy weight

Obesity can significantly worsen back pain in dogs. The more weight your dog is carrying the more pressure there is on the joints of the back and limbs. If your pet is overweight, visit the veterinarian for a weight check and create a weight loss plan. Weight loss in pets can be a challenge as weight loss is gradual, so it can be hard to see an improvement. Cut out treats and extras like table scraps and feed only the amount of dog food recommended by the veterinarian. Your veterinarian may prescribe a weight loss diet to help increase the speed of the weight loss. 

Once your pet is at a healthy weight, it’s important to stay at that weight. Maintain regular daily exercise, continue to weigh or measure out their food allowance daily, and don’t give any snacks or treats. 

If your pet dog need treats for training, use the kibble from their daily allowance, or reduce their quantity of kibble to reflect the extra calories consumed in treats. 

 

Exercise your dog safely

When exercising your dog, it’s important not to overdo it as this can lead to sprains and strains. Try and walk your dog a similar amount of distance each day. If you’re planning a big hike, train with your dog by increasing their walks a little over a few weeks so that they cope with a big hike. 

 

Identify and treat pain early

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common conditions in older dogs and there are many ways we can help reduce the pain dogs feel from back pain. 

 

How to treat back pain in dogs

Joint supplements

Joint supplements can help slow down the rate of osteoarthritis progression and improve symptoms of back pain. The glucosamine and chondroitin add extra cushioning to the cartilage covering the bones, reducing the pain sensation of osteoarthritis. Omega 3 in joint supplements can also act as an anti-inflammatory.

You can feed joint supplements from any age, but it is usual to start once the degenerative joint disease is confirmed. Always purchase a brand specifically formulated for dogs and start with the loading dose before moving on to a maintenance dose. Your dog will need to be given these supplements for life. 

 

Pain relief

If your dog has back pain an important way to prevent back pain is to give pain killer medications. Pain management in dogs is a fine balance, and over time you may find that your current medications or dosage are not fully treating the pain. If you notice the symptoms of your dog’s back pain returning, talk to your veterinarian about changing the dose, frequency, or type of medication. By doing so, you will reduce the pain windup sensation, since the more pain your dog feels, the harder it can be to manage it. By actively treating low-grade pain, we prevent it from escalating to high-grade pain which is much harder to treat.

Always follow the dosing instructions given on the bottle. Missing doses or underdosing your dog to try and save medication can result in your dog feeling uncomfortable or painful, even if they don’t show you obvious signs. Do not increase the dose or give human medications without consulting a veterinarian as this can cause severe side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, or kidney and liver damage which can be permanent. 

 

Surgery

For severe back pain, some dogs may be operated on. This is generally a specialist procedure, and advanced imaging methods such as CT and MRI are often required. This, combined with the specialist nature of any surgery of the back, means that treating back pain can run into thousands of dollars in costs.

Purchasing pet insurance for high-risk breeds is essential. It will give you peace of mind when back problems arise to be able to get the proper diagnosis and surgery. 

 

FAQ

Are there any natural treatments for back pain?

There are homeopathic pain management supplements available. We recommend talking to a veterinarian with an interest in this field for advice on dosages and supplements. There are other noninvasive forms of treatment for back pain including physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, laser therapy, and acupuncture which may also help. 

 

What should I do if my dog starts to get back pain? 

Visit your veterinarian for a full check-up. They may want to run blood tests, x-rays or ultrasounds. When your vet knows the cause, they can create a treatment plan for recovery specifically for your dog’s needs. 

 

Can dogs live a happy life if they are paralyzed after a back injury? 

It depends on the cause. If the paralysis is not causing any pain, they can live a happy life with a significant investment of time from their owner. You will need to help your dog go to the toilet, move around, and give regular physiotherapy and massage to maintain muscle mass in the hindlimbs. Some dogs find wheelchairs helpful to get around if paralyzed. 

 

What type of exercise should I avoid if my dog has back pain? 

Avoid off-leash running, games that involve pulling on rope toys, and try to reduce jumping activity as much as possible. All of these activities mentioned put additional strain on the back muscles. 

 

Back pain is a common condition in our older pets, and thankfully there are many treatment options and supportive therapies available to make their life as comfortable as possible. Many dogs with low-grade back pain can live happy lives with the right care, so make sure to have a plan. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you are struggling, or think your dog’s pain could be managed better - Our veterinarians are here to help!