What Happens When a Dog Gets a Pinched Nerve?

by Ann Compton
    The dachshund is one of the long-backed breeds prone to pinched nerves.

    The dachshund is one of the long-backed breeds prone to pinched nerves.

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    Your dog suffers a pinched nerve when discs in his back that cushion the vertebrae of his spinal column bunch or bulge into the spinal cord area. The discs will press on the nerves, pinching them, causing your dog pain. It's difficult for a dog owner to diagnose a pinched nerve, because the pain may manifest at any place on the dog's body. Consult your vet when your dog exhibits any signs of pain.

    Typically, pinched nerves occur in the neck or back, but pain that coincides with the pinched nerve in the spine can be felt in other parts of the dog's body in a condition known as intervertebral disc disease. The discs in the dog's back act as spinal shock absorbers. When IVDD occurs, the disc hardens and then breaks down from the impact of activity. When the disc breaks, it moves close to the spinal cord and presses on the nerve in the spinal cord, causing pain. This can occur anywhere in the dog's body, from the neck to the hind legs. Serious cases can result in nerve damage or paralysis. The condition is treatable, but early diagnosis is important to a successful recovery.

    Watch your dog's body language if you suspect he has a nerve injury. His movements will be tentative; he may struggle getting up and lying down, or he may limp, especially on his hind legs. You may notice muscle spasms in his neck or back; he might hunch his back if he's in pain. If your dog exhibits signs of pain, visit your vet as soon as possible.

    Both traditional and holistic treatments are available for pinched nerves. Mainstream veterinary medical treatment can include anti-inflammatory medications, pain relievers, muscle relaxants and, sometimes, tranquilizers to encourage rest. Crate rest may be prescribed for a period of time. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary. Holistic treatments include acupuncture and chiropracty, sometimes in conjunction with drug therapy.

    Breeds whose discs degenerate faster than others are predisposed to pinched nerves. Breeds with long backs such as dachshunds are susceptible, as are Lhasa apsos, shih tzus, poodles, beagles, bassets and Pekingese. Performance dogs active in canine sports, or dogs who are active otherwise, may be more likely to suffer from pinched nerves. Dogs who jump constantly, in play or even just from furniture, are at greater risk of spinal injury or disc degeneration than dogs who don't. Overweight dogs also tend to suffer from degenerative disc disorders more often than fit dogs.

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    About the Author

    With more than 25 years in journalism, Ann Compton has written for national newspapers, magazines and websites. She has covered the equestrian events in five Olympics as well as the Westminster Dog Show and specializes in animal topics. She breeds, trains and shows Shetland Sheepdogs.

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