Dog Spinal Injury Treatment

Spinal injury treatment involves both medication and surgical intervention to treat various spinal conditions in pets. The leading causes of spinal cord damage in dogs are disease, genetic defects and accidents. The cells of the spinal cord cannot regenerate and once the cells die, there’s irreversible damage. Therefore, a dog with spinal injury should be treated with extreme care.

The spine comprises of the spinal cord, vertebrae and the inter-vertebral disc. Tendons, muscles and ligaments also hold everything together. Breeds of dogs with short legs such as corgis, daschunds and fox terriers are prone to mild and severe disc problems which may result in paralysis without any incidence of trauma. The most common form of spinal injury, however, is when a dog is hit by an automobile.

Types of Spinal Injuries:

  • Vertebrae fracture
  • Disc rupture
  • Vertebrae torn apart
  • Damage to spinal cord
  • Damage to the support system of the spinal cord, thus endangering the integrity of the cord

Symptoms of Spinal Injuries:

  • Due to pain, your dog won’t want to stand or jump or climb stairs.
  • Your pet will appear unsteady especially in the hindquarters and may fall while turning corners.
  • Your dog will stand on the upper surface of his toes and not on the pads of his paws. This in turn leads to wearing down of his toe nails and toe bleeding.
  • As the condition worsens, the pet may be unable to get up and his legs will get weaker.
  • He will not respond to a light touch to an area below the injured area.
  • Total paralysis occurs as the injury worsens and the legs appear floppy. Pets will also suffer from severe pain and may be incontinent.

Treatment for Spinal Injuries in Dogs

The treatment varies according to the cause of the spinal injury. For mild disc injuries, the vet will prescribe rest and limited activity. If there’s evident degenerative disc disease, crate rest helps avert paralysis. In cases where there are recurrent signs of disc disease or where loss of movement is present, surgery is the best option. Your vet will recommend diagnostic imaging such as a CT scan or an MRI to determine the location and cause of the injury. Decompression surgery is another treatment procedure that removes pressure on the spinal cord from the disc debris. In addition to surgery, rehabilitation is extremely important. Rehabilitation comprises of exercises that strengthen neurological function and the muscles. Swimming is one such form of rehabilitation.


It’s important to ensure that your pet isn’t overweight if he’s predisposed to disc injuries. A lean, fit dog is able to recover from injuries better. Also, excess body weight puts stress on the discs. Thus a nutritious diet and moderate daily exercise are recommended. It’s advisable to use a chest harness in lieu of a leash attached to a dog collar as the latter can cause strain on the neck.

Pets should be discouraged from jumping off furniture as sudden movement may exert excess stress on your pet’s spine. If the dog is paralyzed, it’s generally advisable to buy a cart to increase his mobility.