My Miniature Schnauzer Has Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease
Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease
What Is It?
This disease is also known as slipped disc, ruptured disc, herniated disc, or prolapsed disc. My veterinarian explained that there are 26 intervertebral discs in the dog’s spinal column. Each disc is similar to a jelly donut and is composed of two distinct regions. These discs act as shock absorbers for the spinal column. When the discs either bulge or burst, they press on the nerves of the spinal column and cause pain.
It can occur in humans as well as animals. The old country people used to call this condition, "being down in their back." Some people have chronic back pain because of this problem.
Is It Common Among Certain Breeds?
In the canine world, intervertebral disc disease is common among dachshunds, cocker spaniels, beagles, and bassets. These breeds have long backs, so, for obvious reasons, they are at a higher risk. It is not that common in the miniature schnauzer, but unfortunately, my dog suffers from it.
Any injury to the spinal column can cause this disease. Sometimes, it’s just inherited.
Baby Is a Very Active Little Dog
I have a four-year-old miniature schnauzer named Baby. I refer to her as "The Queen of the House." She is a very active little dog. She loves to play fetch with her ball and likes tug-of-war toys. She is a jumper and likes to hop from the back of the couch onto the floor and jump up and off chairs and beds. She also really likes running up and down the stairs in my house, which are quite steep. She follows me wherever I go. I go up and down my stairs many times during the day, and she always walks right along with me.
Baby Has 3 Episodes of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease
We went for a walk one day and were resting on a park bench just watching the cars go by. She suddenly decided to jump down from the bench, which is not at all unusual for her. As soon as she did this, she just sat down. She didn’t want to move. I tried to pick her up, and she let me know something was terribly wrong: she yelped in pain. She refused to walk, so I carried her the four blocks home. I put her on the couch, and her entire body was trembling. The veterinarian later told me that this is a sign of pain in dogs.
The next morning she was not any better. I called my veterinarian, and he said to bring her in right away. During the exam, he ran his fingers up and down her spine and, when he hit the area on the lower back, she yelped and snapped. After X-rays were taken, he showed them to me and explained that Baby had a herniated disc in the lower back. He said treatment would consist of complete bed rest, an injection of Dexamethasone, which is used for inflammation in the joints, Dermaxx tablets for pain, and Valium tablets to keep her still and quiet when at home. He warned me that this is often a reoccurring problem: once it happens, it is likely to happen again.
For two weeks, I followed the vet’s advice: no going up and down the stairs, no jumping, etc. I moved the couch up against the wall so she couldn’t jump off the back, which was one her favorite things to do. I put a vanity bench on the side of my bed so she couldn’t jump up onto the bed. I rearranged everything possible in my house to try to prevent another episode. After two weeks, I couldn’t keep her down. She was her old bouncy, jumping self, running up and down the stairs and playing fetch with her ball.
Things were going along very nicely until two months later when she jumped down from the front of the couch and must have twisted her back. Down she went, and she wouldn’t get up. The trembling began. I knew right away she was in acute pain, and I knew exactly what was wrong. Sure enough, the vet confirmed that she had “thrown her back out” again! He gave her the same treatment as before with the same warning: bed rest, no jumping, no stairs, etc.
She got over this episode in about two weeks. Then, just the other day, she was playing ball in the yard and jumped up to catch the ball. She went down on the ground, whimpering and trembling. I just couldn’t believe this was happening again. We went back to the veterinarian, and he gave me the same diagnosis. He also gave me some stern admonition. Unless I wanted Baby to continue to suffer from this progressive disease, we would have to change our lifestyle. He said there is a strong likelihood that one day she will experience another episode, after which she might never be able to walk again. He said it was my choice: either I take preventive measures or Baby would spend a lot of time in pain and in his office. Surgery may be an option, he said. The surgery is performed to relieve the compression of the spinal cord. She would need to see a neurologist to determine if surgery could be the solution for her problem. That doctor would do a myelogram, a CAT scan, and an MRI, and these would reveal the exact location of the disc that is causing the problem.
Baby Doesn't Feel Well Today
As I write this, it has been three days since the latest episode. She just lies around with that dull, expressionless look in her eyes. I carry her up and down the stairs. I carry her out into the yard to go to the bathroom, and then I carry her back inside the house. Because she is on Valium, it’s hard to say whether she is lethargic because she feels pain or if the Valium is making her drowsy.
Baby's Attempt to Climb the Stairs
I put up a screen in front of the stairs so Baby couldn't follow me. She figured a way to get around the screen and made a vain attempt to go up the stairs. Usually, she runs very fast up and down these stairs, but not now.
What Are My Choices?
Now, this is my dilemma, and I don’t know what to do. I think these are my choices:
1. I could have her see a neurologist for further evaluation.
2. I could take her to a veterinary chiropractor.
3. We could try acupuncture.
4. I could keep her in a dog crate or closely confined.
Baby is very precious to me, and it hurts me so to see her in pain. If I change her lifestyle, what will become of her playfulness, her energy, her excitement when guests come to the door, and her zest for life? She would never be able to do the tricks that she loves to do, like dancing, jumping through the hoop, or begging. She would no longer do the things that might hurt her back. It would be like restraining me and not allowing me to do all the things I want to do. I would be very unhappy, and I think Baby would be unhappy, too.
I have to do a lot of thinking about my options. I know that if I don’t become proactive about this problem, it will probably occur again. If any of you reading this have had a similar experience with your dog, I am open to any advice you may give me.
In the meantime, I'm just trying to keep her quiet, and I'm giving her lots of love and chicken (her favorite). I also keep telling her how sorry I am that she is in pain.
An Update on Baby's Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease
I saw another veterinarian about two months ago to get another opinion. That vet put Baby on Glucosamine/Chondroitin Sulfate, to be taken once a day. She loves the taste. It's a chewable soft medication. I am sure this medication has helped her canine intervertebral disc disease. It is supposed to help strengthen her bones. I continue to limit her physical activity as much as possible.
For now, we seem to have this problem under control.
Another Update on My Dog's Back Problem
I am happy to report that Baby has had no reoccurrence in about six months. I continue to limit her jumping on beds and couches.
She continues to take the Glucosamine/Chondroitin Sulfate once a day, and I really think this medication has strengthened her back.
Have you had any experience with this condition with your pet?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
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© 2011 Mary Hyatt