Dog Back Pain

Dog back pain may occur in older dogs, but also younger dogs that have muscle problems, neurological or vertebral disorders. The pain is manifested though lethargy and inactivity and your pet may avoid jumping or climbing stairs. Dog back pain can be controlled thorough medication, surgery and physical therapy.

Causes of Back Pain

Back pain can be caused by muscle or vertebral issues, but may also be influenced by neurological problems.

Some common causes of back and neck pain in canines include:

  • Vertebral disk disorders or intervertebral disk disease
  • Fractures of the spine
  • Dislocation of the spine
  • Tumors located on the spine
  • Diseases affecting the meninges; the meninges is a membrane that covers the spine and the brain and when this is infected, the dog may experience back pain
  • Referred pain; when the dog has a problem in one area, but the pain is felt in a different area (i.e., kidney problems may be felt as back pain)

Symptoms of Back Pain

A dog with back pain will display a number of symptoms:

  • Reluctance to move
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Crying or moaning
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in posture; a more arched back
  • Stiff neck
  • Pain when palpating
  • Weakness
  • Shivering
  • Fever
  • Irritability and aggressiveness

Diagnosing Dog Back Pain

If the dog displays some of the above mentioned symptoms, the vet will perform a full examination. A neurologic exam is also needed, as back pain may have neurological causes. X-rays and blood tests are necessary to establish the source of the back pain. If the vet suspects a muscle disorder, muscle biopsy tests are also needed.

Treatment Options

The treatment of back pain in dogs depends greatly on the cause of the pain. The treatment can contain medication or surgery or both. Anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, muscle relaxants may be required to improve the condition of a dog with back pain.

If the back pain is caused by tumors, spinal trauma or disk and vertebrae disorders, surgery is recommended to relieve the pain.

In some cases, there is very little to do to make your pet feel better. The dog needs to rest and will receive pain killers.

Home Care

A dog with back pain should be monitored and the response to medication or surgery should be recorded. You should follow the recommendations of the vet and make sure to administer the medication as necessary.

A dog with back pain should get very little exercise, or none at all. However, in some cases, the vet may recommend physical therapy, which can be done at a vet clinic. Your vet may also instruct you to perform a few exercises that are safe for a dog with back problems.


The prognosis for dogs with back pain varies according to the cause of the pain. In some cases, the pain can be eliminated totally, while in some dogs the pain will persist for life and should be managed with medication.