Your pooch has seven vertebrae in his lumbar spine. When one or more of these vertebrae falls out of proper alignment, it creates a subluxation. This misalignment causes pressure or irritation on the nerves of the spinal cord, affecting the nerves, muscles and bones throughout the body. Various factors, including intervertebral disc disease and previous trauma, increase the risk of lumbar vertebral subluxation.
Symptoms of a lumbar vertebral subluxation include lower back pain, decrease in movement, shorter steps from the back legs, abnormal posture when sitting or standing, dead tail, sensitivity to touch, decreased coordination, muscle atrophy or muscle stiffness. Severe cases of subluxation can lead to paralysis and urinary and fecal incontinence.
Subluxations are common in dogs diagnosed with intervertebral disc disease. In the spine, a disc is the cartilage cushion found between the individual vertebral bones that act as shock absorbers. Misaligned vertebrae increase pressure on the discs, increasing the risks of disc rupture. Once they do rupture, subluxations worsen due to the loss of cushion. Some small dog breeds, such as the beagle, cocker spaniel, dachshund and Pekingese, are predisposed to intervertebral disc disease.
In addition to a genetic predisposition for intervertebral disc disease, various other factors increase the risk of lumbar subluxation. Trauma or injury can cause the vertebrae to move out of alignment. Long-term confinement in a crate or kennel may cause a dog to change basic movement, resulting in spinal weakness and misalignment. As dogs age, minor injuries can lead to misalignment. Poor foot care, such as nail trimming, adjusts a dog’s gait and can cause spinal misalignment.
Treatment for lumbar vertebral subluxation depends on the severity and underlying cause. If the misalignment is the result of an underlying condition, such as intervertebral disc disease, dysplasia or arthritis, the treatment first addresses that condition. Possible treatments include anti-inflammatories or spinal surgery. If no underlying condition is present, chiropractic care may move the misaligned vertebrae back into place, relieving symptoms.
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