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Are you aware that there can be sciatica or other back pain in dogs? Dogs can also experience the pain of back injuries, disk problems, or sciatica, just like us. Sciatica occurs when the sciatic (a.k.a. ischiadic / ischiatic) nerve gets damaged, causing pain to the lumbar area near the legs at the back of the dog. The sciatic nerve is how the legs and the brain communicate through the spinal cord, so if it fails to function properly, the brain does not receive the proper signals, resulting in the dog not being able to move his legs and feet properly, or possibly even being permanently paralyzed.
Back Pain In Dogs
Dog sciatica is sometimes caused by routine vaccinations or other injections, when the area where the sciatic nerve is located (the back of the thigh) is the usual spot for the shot. And because of that, the needle may hit the nerve if the veterinarian or staffer giving the injection is not extremely cautious, causing the sciatic nerve to be damaged. Even the medicine from the shot can have an effect on the sciatic nerve itself.
Another possible cause of dog sciatica is getting hit by any hard object, such as thrown rocks or vehicles, or any other injury that could have damaged the part where the sciatic nerve is located. Sometimes just “rough play” can cause it, although that is rare in younger dogs.
Long-backed dog breeds such as Dachshunds are particularly susceptible to injury-related pain.
The incident can cause either be only one leg (on only one side), or both the hind legs to have a limp or even stop functioning. This is because, as mentioned above, the damage of the sciatic nerve brings pain to the back legs and the lumbar area. Muscle degeneration can also occur if the condition had been affecting the dog for a long time. There may also be cases when the dog has problems with defecating and/or urinating. These then could lead to additional problems like constipation, incontinence, and possible life-threatening issues such as infections. Vets describe this as a higher stage of dog sciatica and should be treated immediately. Contact your vet right away if these symptoms occur to your dog.
You can help diagnose this condition by paying particular attention to and analyzing how your dog moves around from time to time. The best time to observe your dog’s movement is during physical activities which involves the use of the legs, such as running or walking. Dogs will usually not want to put weight on their legs if they are in pain.
Your vet may also do some examination of your dog to determine if he really has sciatica. He/she can determine if the sciatic nerve has damage by palpating the dog’s back. Because of the pressure applied on the affected part, your dog will definitely react if it the nerve is damaged.
Muscle atrophy or deterioration can occur because of your dog’s lack of activity and movement due to the pain. It occurs when the segment of the dog’s nervous system which leads to the muscles become affected.
Treatment for back pain in dogs and sciatica depends on the level of the condition, whether it is mild or severe. Surgical procedures can sometimes be recommended, but remember that the results are not always positive. A lot of recovery time should be allowed for your dog after the surgery, and physiotherapy should be done.
We had an 18-year old Dachshund who developed sciatica at almost age 17; the cause was unknown. It got bad enough that we had to physically support her when she answered Nature’s call. Apparently she wasn’t in a lot of pain, but sadly, eventually we had to put her down.
Have you had any experience with back pain in dogs? Please share your story below.