Health Library

Intervertebral Disc Disease

If your dog develops sudden hind limb weakness or paralysis, please contact your veterinarian or nearest emergency facility immediately.

Caring for Pets with Neurological Conditions

A dog’s spine is made up of bones called vertebrae. These bones have a central hollow area through which the spinal cord runs. Between the vertebrae are soft cushions called discs. They have a softer center (nucleus) and a firm outer casing (annulus). Occasionally in dogs, the nucleus can burst through the annulus putting pressure on the spinal cord. This can result in clinical signs varying from neck or back pain to weakness and paralysis of the hind limbs and possibly forelimbs. Dogs that are more mildly affected will often respond to medical management, including rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and muscle relaxants. Patients with more severe signs often require surgical intervention where the nucleus is removed from the spinal canal, relieving pressure on the spinal cord. In many cases, the more severe cases can require emergency surgery. Following surgery, we may recommend several rehabilitation exercises in order to improve function and prevent muscle atrophy. The following links are provided to give instruction on these exercises if they have been recommended for your pet.