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Back Pain in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

January 21, 2023

Back Pain in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment


How to Tell When Your Dog Has Back Pain


Most dog owners realize that their dogs' leg can be hurt when they are running, or that dogs can develop hip dysplasia or arthritis with old age, but not may pet parents think that a dog can have back pain. Unfortunately, dogs are just as susceptible to different kinds of pains as humans and back pain in dogs is quite common. 

It is one of the misconceptions among the people. The moment you pick up a ball or a leash a dog is always ready to go, and so we just naturally assume that dogs always have boundless energy and don't have any pain. And dogs, who are so eager to please, rarely display any distress or show signs of any aches and pains they may have until the pain gets really bad. 


To help you know when your dog has back pain we are going to let you in on some tell tale signs and symptoms of back pain in dogs that you can watch for, what may be causing the pain, and how to treat your dog's back pain when you spot the problem. 

Signs and Symptoms of Back Pain in Dogs

A question you are probably asking is "How do I know if my dog has back pain?While it is true that dogs cannot speak the way humans do, they do show signs of discomfort. You can spot those signs if you know how to read their body language.

If you want to know how to tell that dog is in pain, then look for the following symptoms:

Change in the Dog's Behavior

Dogs with back pain may become more anxious or aggressive, or the opposite - they could become more lethargic and inactive. This change in their behavior can signify that your dog is in discomfort and trying to cope with the pain.


Dog has Difficulty Standing

Another common symptom of back pain in dogs is difficulty standing. If your dog has trouble standing up or maintaining their balance, it could be a sign of back pain. This may be caused by muscle weakness or nerve damage, which can be a severe issue if left untreated.

Yelping or Withdrawing when Touched

If your dog yelps or shies away in pain when touched or handled, especially on top of his back, it could be a symptom that your dog has back pain. A dog that is having a muscle spasms or one that has inflammation in the back, will typically have a lot of discomfort and will display these symptoms. 


Dog Avoiding Putting Weight on their Leg

If you notice that your dog is limping or avoiding putting all their weight on their leg, they could have a leg injury, but the pain could also be coming from their back and shooting down to the leg. Signs like this are worth investigating further.

dog on beach with one leg up


Dog Keeping their Head Low

Another common symptom of back pain in dogs is keeping their head low. If your dog seems to be holding their head lower than usual, it could be a sign that they are experiencing pain or discomfort. 


Loss of Appetite

A loss of appetite is another common symptom of back pain in dogs. If your dog is not eating as much as usual or seems to have lost their appetite altogether, it could be a sign that they are experiencing some discomfort or pain. 

While a poor appetite is usually a sign of the dog experiencing pain it is not necessarily a sign of dog back pain. A sudden loss of appetite could be caused by a variety of issues, including your dog having tooth pain or other dental problems, digestive issues, or any other underlying medical condition.


Dog sleeping on a bed

How to Tell What Part of a Dog's Back Hurts?


If you notice your pup displaying any of the above symptoms, the next step is to identify if in fact the pain is in your dog's back and exactly where the issue is coming from. But don't worry; we have got you covered!

Here are some tips for determining the location of your dog's back pain:

Dog Back Pain

If your dog is experiencing pain in their upper back, you may notice them arching their back or appearing tense when you touch the spine.


Dog Neck Pain

If your dog is having neck pain, you may notice that they are avoiding certain motions or have problems turning their head. When you touch their head or neck, they may also show signs of distress.

Dog Lower Back Pain

If your dog is experiencing hip pain, they may have difficulty standing or walking when you touch their hips. When they get up from a lying position, they can have problems walking, or you will see your dog limping.

Dog Joint Pain

Dogs with joint pain may have difficulty standing or walking and appear stiff or uncomfortable when moving. They may also exhibit signs of discomfort when you touch the affected joint; pulling away or walking away to avoid being touched.


What Causes Back Pain in Dogs?

Back pain in dogs can have a variety of causes, ranging from old age to injury. Here are some of the most common causes of dog back pain:

Old Age

As dog's age, their joints naturally start to experience wear and tear, becoming more susceptible to injuries and disease. It is not uncommon for senior dogs to have back pain due to arthritis, degenerative joint disease, and other age-related conditions. For this reason, special care needs to be taken with older pets to help them live out their senior years with the the best quality of life possible

Some dog breeds have a greater pre-disposition to developing these issues then others. Want to find out if your dog is one of them - check out this blog to see if your dog is at risk of getting arthritis



Meningitis

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. A dog with meningitis can experience back pain and other symptoms such as fever, lethargy, and vomiting.


Obesity in Dogs

Dogs that are overweight are more likely to experience back pain due to the added strain on their spine. This is especially true for breeds with short legs or long backs, as the extra weight can put more pressure on these areas.

Falls, Leg Sprains and Other Injuries 


Back pain in dogs can also be caused by injuries, such as falls, sprains or accidents. ACL tears, leg and knee injuries, as well as hip and joint injuries may occur in areas other than the back but but the extent of the wound can go beyond the actual impact point and affect the spine. 


Intervertebral Disc Disease

Intervertebral disc disease occurs when the discs between the vertebrae in the spine become damaged or degenerate. This can lead to pain and discomfort, particularly in the back and neck.


Luxating Patella and Other Structural Conditions 

Any impact to the way the dog moves, including dogs that have lost a leg, are in wheelchairs, or have other medical conditions such as dog having a luxating patella that affects the dog's walk, can lead to that dog having back pain and discomfort.

dog with injured leg

Dog Back Pain Remedies and Treatments


Back, leg and hip pain in dogs can all cause your pup to experience various degrees of discomfort. No one likes to see their pup in pain, but fortunately there are a number of remedies and treatments that can help alleviate their discomfort and improve your dog's quality of life.

The first step in addressing back pain in dogs is to identify the underlying cause. This may involve a visit to the veterinarian for a thorough examination and diagnostic testing. Once the cause of the back pain has been determined, a treatment plan can be developed to address the issue.

One of the most effective ways to alleviate back pain in dogs is through lifestyle changes. This can include weight loss if the dog is overweight, as excess weight can put additional strain on the back and joints. Providing your dog with a comfortable and supportive dog bed can also be helpful, as well as avoiding activities that may exacerbate the pain, such as jumping or climbing a lot of stairs.

Supplements and over-the-counter (OTC) treatments can also help manage back pain in dogs. The WALK-EASY joint pain relief remedy is a natural anti-inflammatory and pain reliever for dogs that can be used at home to reduce pain as well as for long-term support of joint health. There are also a number of back pain supplements that can be used to help manage pain. However, if your dog has a pre-existing medical condition it is important to speak with the experts before giving your dog any supplements or OTC medications.

In some cases, more aggressive treatment may be necessary to address back pain in dogs. This can include things like physical therapy, chiropractic care, and acupuncture. These treatments can help to improve mobility and reduce pain by targeting specific areas of the body and promoting healing.

Surgery may also be an option for dogs with severe or chronic back pain. This can include spinal fusion or disc removal, which can help stabilize the spine and alleviate pain.

All in all, there are a number of remedies and treatments that can be used to help manage back pain in dogs. Working with your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause of the pain and develop a treatment plan is essential in ensuring your dog's comfort and well-being. By making lifestyle changes, using supplements and OTC treatments, and seeking more aggressive treatments if necessary, you can help your dog live a happy and healthy life despite back pain.


Black dog lying down

Do Dogs Cry When in Pain?

It is a common misconception that all dogs cry or whine when in pain. In reality, some pups are tough cookies and can handle discomfort without making a sound. However, other canines, particularly those still learning about physical pain, may whine or cry when they are hurting.

So, if you notice your furry friend whimpering (and it's not because they want to be taken for a walk), then it is probably because they are uncomfortable. But don't worry; your presence and comfort can often help ease their suffering and stop the whining. As long as you avoid any sensitive areas, don't be afraid to cuddle and comfort your pooch if they feel under the weather.


The Good News About Dog Back Pain

 

Fortunately, dogs are resilient animals. Similar to people, dogs have adapted to losing a leg, losing the use of both hind legs, and many other injuries. The key is to determine the problem, manage the pain and provide relief as quickly as possible using one of the treatments mentioned above. 

Although in their effort to please their human they may not always let on how much is really bothering them, once you spot the signs of your dog's pain there are lots of options mentioned above for helping to relieving it. As long as the problem is not severe, with a some care and attention your dog's back should heal quickly and they'll be back to their happy healthy selves. 





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