Herniated disc in dogs: symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention


The herniated disc is a frequent and unfortunately very painful pathology in humans but also in dogs! However, your pet will have a hard time telling you what is wrong! How to recognize a herniated disc in dogs? How to treat her? Is it possible to prevent it? Here are all the answers to these questions!

What is a herniated disc in dogs?

The herniated disc is the same in dogs and humans. It is characterized by the displacement of an intervertebral disc. As a reminder, the vertebral discs separate the vertebrae which make up the spine and which protect the spinal cord in the event of a fall, shock or accident. In the event of a herniated disc, the displacement of the intervertebral disc can cause compression on the spinal cord which generates severe pain but also paralysis. A dog with a herniated disc may have difficulty moving.

It should be noted that certain breeds of dog, by virtue of their morphology, are more frequently affected by a herniated disc. These are Bulldogs, Beagles, German Shepherds, Poodles, Cavaliers King Charles and Dachshunds. Older dogs also have predispositions.

How to recognize a herniated disc in dogs?

Symptoms of a herniated disc

The most common cause of paralysis in dogs is a herniated disc. This paralysis is therefore the main symptom of this pathology. He should alert you and urge you to make an appointment with the vet.

Other symptoms should alert you. You should know that they differ depending on the location of the hernia and the course of the disease. Here are the signs to watch out for:

  • squeaks,
  • stiffness,
  • refusal to walk or play,
  • difficulties in moving,
  • a bent back,
  • urinary incontinence,
  • loss of tenderness in the hind or forelimbs.

There are two types of herniated disc. Dorsolumbar hernias affect the hind limbs and cervical hernias affect the forelimbs.

Dorsolumbar disc herniation

Dorsolumbar disc herniation is a form of herniation that affects the hind limbs. In this case, the affected limbs are the lower back and the hind legs. The signs of a dorsolumbar hernia vary depending on the severity of the disease. Your dog may have trouble with his balance and difficulty simply standing on his legs. He may also suffer from paralysis.

Herniated cervical disc

With a herniated cervical disc, the dog has difficulty moving. He suffers from weakness in the front and rear legs. He does not seem to be controlling his movements. A cervical hernia causes a lot of pain.

The veterinarian’s diagnosis

If you suspect that your dog is suffering from a herniated disc, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. After a medical questionnaire and a clinical examination, he will offer additional examinations including a neurological examination. This makes it possible to control the animal’s posture, its gait and to assess the loss of sensitivity. A scanner can also be considered. This will highlight the hernia and especially its severity.

Know that the earlier the diagnosis, the easier it is to initiate treatment. If you delay consulting, not only will your dog suffer, but surgery will become the only alternative. It is also an expensive alternative.

How to treat a herniated disc in dogs?

To treat a herniated disc, several solutions exist. The veterinarian will make his choice taking into account the dog’s state of health, the intensity of the pain or the age of the animal.

Non-surgical treatments for herniated disc in dogs

Non-surgical treatments are those that are offered as a priority. They are recommended to treat the symptoms of a dorsolumbar disc herniation (of the hind limbs). They include anti-inflammatories and plenty of rest. The goal here is to relieve the dog and see if there is any improvement in his condition.

Dog herniated disc surgical treatments

If the anti-inflammatory drugs do not work enough, you have to choose another treatment. Surgery then becomes the only alternative. The vet will perform a surgery called a hemilaminectomy. In other words, it will remove the piece of disc that is compressing the spinal cord.

Surgery is often the only chance for the animal to regain its mobility and especially to fight the pain. However, it is possible that tenderness remains present even after surgery. If the dog is already paralyzed, the operation is unnecessary because the spinal cord is affected. If this is the case, support is offered. Some dogs can for example be paired.

Prevent a herniated disc in dogs

A herniated disc in dogs is a serious condition that must be taken seriously. Because it causes severe pain and paralysis, it must be prevented. But how ?

  • A dog should never make vertical movements. He has four legs and not 2! His weight must be perfectly distributed so as not to damage his spine. If out of balance, the disc can be damaged and cause a herniated disc. This instruction is to be followed in dogs with predispositions.
  • Dogs at risk should avoid getting on and off the sofa and limit the use of stairs. During these movements, the spine is put to the test.
  • Dogs must not be carried. This bad habit alters the spine. This is particularly the case in predisposed dogs.
  • Being overweight increases the risk of a herniated disc. It is therefore wise to provide your animal with a balanced diet so that it maintains a healthy weight.

If in doubt, do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian. An untreated herniated disc can have serious repercussions on the health and well-being of dogs, but if taken care of in time your dog will return to a normal life!