Keep him from jumping on or off furniture, and climbing stairs. Use a ramp to allow access to furniture. When holding him, keep the back horizontal by holding them like a football, with the hind quarters under your arm, and your hands under the chest. Teddy has 3 slipped discs as he is overweight! These symptoms can be seen with other spinal diseases, so an examination by a vet is needed. A good neurological exam allows your vet to get an idea of where in the back or brain the problem is and then focus x rays and diagnostic tests on those particular areas.
These tests should be performed by a vet only to prevent further spinal injury. The skin is pricked with a needle to see if the dog can feel light pain. The toes are then pinched softly then very hard to see if the dog can feel it. If the leg withdraws this only indicates an intact reflex, not a sensation, but if he yelps or nips, it shows he retains deep pain. The loss of deep pain signals the need for immediate surgery. The paw is placed on its top surface to see if the dog recognizes and can feel the paw is in the wrong position and then if it can right the foot.
The pet is held up and then its paws are placed below a surface so that the top of the paws touch the underside of a table, for example. The normal response is for the dog to pick up the foot and put it on top of the table. If there is spinal cord damage the dog may not do this. This allows the vet to see if your dog knows where the legs are in relation to his body and the ground. Dogs with slipped discs frequently stumble and may drag the legs slightly, or may even not use the legs at all in severe cases. Your vet will observe the dogs walking and then see if he or she can cope with turning round, changing direction and stopping and starting. This gives an indication of the severity of the spinal injury.
This test gives an idea of where the slipped disc is localised but it isn’t a hard and fast rule. The skin is pricked and normally, the skin will react by shivering slightly. Often, at the level of the lesion, the skin will not feel the prick and thus not react. The patella reflex is performed on both back legs to see if the dog reacts and how much or how little he or she reacts to tapping. This gives an idea of whether there is nerve damage on the pathway of the reflex. A similar test can be performed in the front legs but it is not as reliable.
These are nerves that originate in the brain and go to and from the important places in the head, including the nose, eyes, ears face, mouth, tongue, throat and then also go down the neck into the body to regulate the heart, blood pressure and gut function for example. Because we know where these nerves come out in the brain, it allows a vet to pinpoint if there is disease in the brain that could be affecting balance and proprioception and thus affecting fore and hind leg function. Your vet will preferably sedate your pet and take a minimum of 2 views, one from the side of the pet and one either lying on his back or his stomach. Specialists may also do an x ray with dye known as a Myelogram or a MRI scan to locate the damaged disc. Myelograms do carry a risk of seizures and both the myelogram and MRI scan should be done under general anaesthetic or very deep sedation. If your dog looks like he can’t walk, don’t leave it, even for a few hours. The longer pressure lasts on the spinal cord and the more severe it is, the greater the chance of permanent problems.
Chances of improvement drop within hours, so don’t wait! In mild cases, steroids, muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories are used to reduce pain and swelling. If your dog has an episode of acute onset sever back pain, but he or she is still able to use the legs and bear weight on them, then it is recommended in many cases that they are kept in hospital for a few days. They basically stay in a cage and don’t move around a lot. Often these injured dogs get insecure at home and try to follow the owners around, doing their backs more harm than good. If they don’t rest, it is possible they could get worse and definitely need expensive spinal surgery. In severe cases, or in cases that rapidly deteriorate, surgery is indicated.
Removing damaged disc material is delicate, specialist surgery and can make a huge difference. They should be confined for at least six weeks. Water therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic treatments help. Treating IVDD is expensive, so get pet insurance! Dachshunds that don’t recover can do well on wheels to support their hindquarters, but it depends on the individual temperament of the dog as to how they will cope. They also can’t be left in their harness all the time, so it can be labour intensive to look after them. Many do very well, however. These dogs show symptoms of back pain and paralysis which can come and go but is sometimes irreversible. It is important that their backs are x rayed to make a proper diagnosis and possibly an MRI scan performed to assess how much of the spinal cord is being compressed under the malformed vertebrae. This is a disease that is hard to understand as it can lead to a sudden and severe paralysis in dogs.