Back Pain in Dogs: What Is There to Know?

Pet Care


May 6, 2021

It can generally go without saying that people are going to want to make sure that their dogs are as happy and as comfortable as possible. Naturally, this means you will want to try and make your dog’s life easier when you know that it is having trouble with different aspects of life. For instance, if your dog has bad joints, you may try to minimize heights to climb by adding ramps wherever you can.

With that being said, it can be hard to tell when your dog is uncomfortable and in pain, and it can be even harder to find where that pain is coming from. Even then, once you find the source of the pain, you may feel at a loss as to how you can help your dog not feel as much pain throughout the day.

If you suspect that something is going on in your dog’s little life, there are a few things that you can do to try and help it. From making sure you know how to tell if dogs are in pain to learning about the causes of the pain and what you can do to make life easier for your dog, there are ways that you can ensure your dog is living the best life that it can physically live.

Dogs and Pain

Because dogs are historically both predators and prey in the wild, they have learned how to mask pain and discomfort that they may be feeling. This stems from the fact that in the wild, if a dog was visibly weaker than the rest of the pack, it would be singled out by predators, making it imperative to hide its pain. In today’s time, this can make it tough because you may not realize that your dog is suffering until the problem becomes even more severe.

First, there are the standard signs of pain in dogs. These include whimpering and whining, behavioral changes and becoming more aggressive if you accidentally pet the painful area, eating less, and moving around less because of the pain. In cases where the pain is in a specific spot, such as the back, there will be other signs of the problem.

For dog back pain, your dog will typically be sitting and standing in a different position or with a different posture than you are used to seeing. Dogs with back pain will typically hunch over at the site of the pain, which may be cervical (around the neck), thoracic (along the rib cage), or lumbar (between the ribs and the pelvis). There may also be stiffness, tremors, an unsteady gait, and similar issues with back pain that will indicate to you that you should take your dog to its vet.

Figuring Out Where the Pain Is Coming From

When you first notice that your dog is acting as if it is experiencing back pain (or any pain), you need to take it to its vet. Vets have the equipment and the expertise to be able to scan for the issue and diagnose what the problem is with your dog, while running the tests necessary to come to this conclusion. If at any point, your dog is no longer as active or as mobile as it used to be, or if it is experiencing behavioral changes, you need to take the dog to the vet so that it can be examined.

Just because the term for what is affecting your dog is back pain doesn’t mean that the problem is easy to find or fix. There are numerous areas of the spine and each of them can develop their own problems. On top of that, you have to keep in mind the different breeds and their standards.

Luckily, no matter how obscure or commonplace the cause of the back pain is, a team of reliable vets at a well-equipped clinic will be able to scan for some of the various problems that can cause back pain in dogs.

What Causes Back Pain in Dogs?

There are just as many problems that can cause back pain in dogs as there are for people, if not even more problems due to specific breeding regulations and requirements. For example, dogs can experience slipped discs, arthritis, and injuries from falls or fights. Some breeds, particularly breeds that have been bred to be particularly tall or short, will have more problems with their spines than other breeds of dogs typically do.

Another problem that is more unique to a canine spine than a human spine is a disease known as intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). This disease is a chronic, degenerative condition where the spinal cord simply degrades over time when it should be more protected. Dogs with this problem tend to be the breeds that have a much longer body than tall, such as corgis or Dachshunds.

From genetic conditions to congenital to acquired conditions, there are countless different problems that could cause back pain in dogs. After all, their spines are quite similar to people’s spines, so it would make sense that they have the chance to develop a number of these issues. From here, what you need to work on is making sure that not only are you preventing them from developing but that you also know how to optimize your dog’s lifestyle.

Preventing Back Pain in Dogs

While there isn’t much you can do to prevent congenital or genetic causes of back pain, nor can you know when conditions will develop, there are ways that you can decrease the chances that your dog will be susceptible to back pain. These will help you lower your chances that your dog develops pain, ensuring that it can live as comfortable of a life as possible.

Making sure that your dog isn’t overweight isn’t only good for preventing back pain from developing; it is also one of the key components in making sure that back pain that is already there doesn’t develop into something worse or more debilitating for your dog. When the spine isn’t under a lot of stress from carrying weight that it wasn’t meant to carry, it won’t be as strained and your dog won’t be in as much pain.

You can also make sure to modify exercise to be more fitting to your dog’s condition. Regular exercise is important, but it is even more important to not over- or under-exercise your dog as this can not only cause issues but also exacerbate issues that are already there. Dogs who exercise too much can put strain on their muscles and ligaments, causing problems for an already-weak back, just as dogs who exercise too little will experience aches and pains from not being able to move around as much.