Bulging Disc in Dogs

A bulging disc is also known as herniation or Hansen type 2 and it consists of a protuberance into the spinal canal. The condition is severe and requires treatment, to prevent other complications and to make sure your dog will recover fully. Left untreated, a bulging disc can cause permanent damage in your pet.

Causes of a Bulging Disc

A bulging disc occurs only in certain dogs and it is an inherited condition. Most often, a bulging disc occurs as a consequence of the degenerative intervertebral disk disease. In some cases, the condition is caused by trauma or the causes are idiopathic.

Symptoms of a Bulging Disc in Dogs

Herniation is a condition that builds up in time and the symptoms may be milder in the beginning. However, as the condition advances and the pressure on the spinal cord is higher, you may notice a number of alarming symptoms such as:

  • Swelling in the spinal cord area
  • Pain when performing certain moves involving the spinal cord
  • Limping
  • Lameness
  • Weakness in the limbs (typically in the back limbs)
  • The dog will hesitate the perform certain moves and will not be able to climb stairs or jump over obstacles
  • Lethargy
  • Unusual posture
  • Paralysis of a side or both sides, in advanced cases

Diagnosing Herniation in Dogs

When you notice any symptoms in your dog, you need to visit the vet. The vet will examine the dog and establish if his gait and posture are normal. Radiographs will be required to assess the condition of the spinal cord. MRIs and CT scans may also be performed for a clearer diagnosis. The vet will have to determine if the annulus fibrosus is ruptured or not. In dogs with a bulging disc, the annulus fibrosus is not ruptured.

Treatment Options for a Bulging Dog Disc

The treatment of a bulging disc in dogs often consists of surgery. However, surgery may only be performed if the disc is not ruptured. The surgery may fix the dog’s problem, but there are also high risks involved and the vet will establish if the dog is a suitable candidate for surgery. After the surgery, the dog will have to rest to recover and he may also need physical therapy for a longer period of time. If surgery is not an option, the dog will have to get steroids or non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs and will have to stay in bed. Physical therapy will be recommended and the dog may recover after several months of therapy. Chiropractic treatment may also be recommended.

It’s important that the dog gets treatment in a timely manner; if the condition is left untreated for a longer period of time, there are high chances that the dog will suffer from permanent damage and may never be able to walk. Herniation is a recurrent condition, so even if your dog has been successfully treated, you will have to watch out for symptoms of a bulging disc.