Spinal stenosis, also known as lumbosacral stenosis, is caused by compression of the nerve roots in the lower back, where the spine meets the hips. The condition is most common in older large dogs. Symptoms and associated problems include lameness, local discomfort, incontinence and self mutilation caused by leg tingling. It is treatable, but the choice of treatment is determined by the severity of the syndrome and the anticipated beneficial outcomes for the dog.
In mild cases of spinal stenosis, particularly where the dog remains mobile and isn’t suffering any obviously serious pain, your veterinarian may start by prescribing anti-inflammatory medication. This may or not be a steroid-based anti-inflammatory. Your vet will make that call on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the severity of the symptoms and the general health of the dog. The anti-inflammatory drugs will reduce swelling in the nerve roots, potentially enabling them to function normally or near normally once more.
Muscle-relaxing drugs will benefit the dog in terms of easing his discomfort, but they will initially do nothing at all to assist with the incontinence. In fact, they may actually make the incontinence worse for a brief period, depending on the longer term outcome of the treatment. Your vet will assess whether the muscle relaxant is likely to produce long-term general remission before electing to continue with the treatment. It’s probable that your vet will also prescribe a pain reliever.
One of the most important elements of treatment for spinal stenosis is exercise restriction. This prevents the condition from worsening and prevents your dog from causing further damage by aggravating an already inflamed area of the body. However, exercise restriction on its own is effective only for mild cases or for old dogs with already limited mobility. In more severe cases, exercise restriction is used in conjunction with medication or as rehabilitation from surgery.
Urinary and bowel incontinence are consistent with severe spinal stenosis. In cases where the nerve compression is so bad that the dog is unable to control his bladder or bowels, the condition will most likely improve only with a decompressive laminectomy. This procedure relieves pressure on the spinal cord and effectively rids the lower back of nerve inflammation and the causes of nerve inflammation. Dogs undergoing this procedure have a high chance of being cured of incontinence. They will also experience improvement in mobility and will no longer suffer the discomfort and lameness associated with the condition.
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