Back pain is common in people and animals. Throughout life, the back takes on the heavy burden of carrying weight and providing muscle support to every system of the body. Over time, back pain can manifest. If you believe you’re recognizing the signs of back pain in your dog, here’s what you need to know about keeping your pet pain-free.
What Causes Back Pain in Dogs?
Back pain can stem from multiple causes. Your vet will be able to better identify the cause of your dog’s back pain and provide appropriate treatment, but here are a few of the most common causes.
Age-Related Back Pain
Back pain, as well as joint pain and general discomfort, are more common as dogs age. Over time, the integrity of bones can decline, and the tissue providing cushion to joints naturally wears away. If your dog is a senior and the back pain has slowly developed, there’s a good chance that their back pain is related to their age.
Damage to the Spinal Cord
Dogs that have longer spines, like dachshunds, are inherently more vulnerable to spinal cord damage. When the spinal cord is damaged and left untreated, dogs can develop something called intervertebral disc disease or degenerative disc disease, which causes chronic back pain.
Conditions like Arthritis or Inflammatory Disorders
Autoimmune conditions like arthritis and conditions that cause chronic inflammation can manifest as pain anywhere throughout your dog’s body, including the back. These conditions are far more complex than spine-specific conditions and require lifelong management to reduce your dog’s overall pain level.
Accidents and Injuries
If your dog’s back pain relates to an accident or injury, you’ll likely know. You may remember a dog aching after a session of rough play. Injuries and accidents require immediate medical examination, even if your dog doesn’t initially appear to be hurt or still seems to be upbeat and in a good mood.
Particularly resilient dogs like springer spaniels and Norwegian elkhounds can have a sprain in their rear leg but continue to run and play on the other three legs that aren’t injured.
Signs of Back Pain in Dogs
Dogs are naturally inclined to disguise their pain. If their pain is manageable, owners often won’t be able to tell that their dog is experiencing discomfort. This is part of the reason why regular veterinary examinations are crucial to preserve your dog’s health while promoting a greater quality of life.
In severe or chronic back pain cases, your dog may show signs or attempt to communicate that they’re uncomfortable. Since their back plays a major role in the way their bodies work, the signs of back pain are often easy to spot.
- An aversion to having their back touched
- Difficulty walking or maintaining proper posture
- Excessive vocalization, like whining or crying
- Sitting or laying in stiff or awkward positions
- Disinterest in play and aversion to exercise
If the signs aren’t obvious but you still suspect your dog is dealing with back pain, a trip to the vet is in order. This is especially necessary if you believe your dog may have been injured. You won’t know without an examination.
How To Relieve Back Pain in Dogs
Back pain in dogs requires a multidisciplinary approach to manage pain levels and promote healing. Your vet will give you thorough instructions. There are a few common sense steps you can take at home to reduce your dog’s discomfort.
Help Your Dog Reach an Appropriate Weight
If your dog is overweight, excess pounds can contribute to their overall discomfort. Your dog’s spine is bearing the burden of excess body weight, and by reducing your dog’s weight to a healthy level, you’re eliminating that unnecessary burden.
Use wholesome, nutritious dog food. Your vet may recommend a specific type of dog food. If not, any well-balanced and high-quality formula should be sufficient. Feed your dog according to the instructions on the back of the packaging, adhering to a schedule. You’ll find an amount in cups that correlates to your dog’s weight.
That said, don’t underfeed your dog. Your dog will slowly reach the proper weight when fed according to these instructions. Strictly limit treats and avoid feeding your dog human food. Treats should be no more than 10% of your dog’s daily diet, and when you’re attempting to help your dog lose weight, it may be a wise idea to limit treats to training rewards.
Give your dog some toys that encourage active play, and add a few more walks to your dog’s regular routine. This is a gentle approach to encouraging movement. Your dog’s desire to participate in active play may increase as their weight decreases, as they’re less likely to experience discomfort.
Give Your Dog a Comfortable Place to Sleep
When your dog is experiencing back pain, sleeping on a hard floor doesn’t help. Find a roomy and supportive bed for your dog. Many beds made for senior dogs contain memory foam or a special gel that contours to your dog’s body, providing a gentle cushion for achy bones and joints. As soon as your dog realizes how comfortable their new bed is, it won’t take much effort to encourage them to sleep in it.
Help Your Dog Get Enough Exercise
Lack of movement can contribute to stiffness and soreness. Dogs will naturally stretch when they wake up, and while this stretching is a little helpful, it isn’t the same as a comprehensive approach to gentle movement.
In many cases, dogs with aches and pains benefit from gentle exercise activities like water aerobics. When your dog is in a pool, the stress and pressure are eased from their joints. This makes movement easier while still providing an adequate workout for muscles, tendons, and tissue.
Vets that specialize in animal rehabilitation will be able to point you in the direction of the nearest facility that provides dogs with therapeutic exercise tools and opportunities.
Follow Your Vet’s Treatment Plan
Every dog should be treated as an individual. Your vet will have a specific tailored approach depending on your dog’s unique situation. This may involve the use of pain medications for a short period of time.
Medications should always be taken as directed. If multiple people in your home help to care for your dog, task one person with the responsibility of administering medication. This will help ensure safe and appropriate dosing.
Keep Your Dog Happy
When properly treated, your dog’s level of back pain may reduce over time. They may also learn to cope with chronic pain. Distractions and a better mindset can help. Make sure your dog has plenty of stimulating toys and has food they legitimately enjoy.
Spend time playing with your dog according to their needs or capabilities. Dogs living with pain may prefer pets, gentle grooming sessions, and cuddles to more rambunctious forms of play. Meet your dog where they are and speak their language. Provide the right types of support and prioritize their happiness.
Avoid placing your dog in stressful situations. If your dog doesn’t like houseguests or car rides, limit these occasions as much as possible. Try to keep the noise level down around your home and stick to familiar walking paths. Keeping your dog’s routine as simple and predictable as possible will prevent them from experiencing undue stress.
Be Proactive About Pet Pain
Injured pets or pets with conditions that cause pain can still live long and happy lives when the proper care protocol is followed. The moment you believe your pet may be experiencing pain, take action. The sooner you intervene, the better the outcome will be.
For more guidance on how to be the best pet parent you can be, explore VETCBD Hemp’s blog here.