Ruptured Disc / Intervertebral Disc Disease In Dogs
The fibrous tissue separating the shock-absorbing intervertebral disc from the spinal cord above it can degenerate and rupture. This is most likely to happen in breeds with long backs and short legs such as the Dachshund. In some larger breeds this fibrous tissue may remain healthy but the disc itself suddenly or gradually slips upwards and bulges through it. The consequence of sudden disc movement is pain and perhaps loss of muscle function posterior to the spinal injury. If a disc presses on the spinal cord there can be complete paralysis posterior to the damage. Loss of muscle function may or may not symmetrically affect both sides of the body.
Diagnosis and treatment
A diagnosis is often based upon a pet's history, breed and clinical signs. Plain x-rays show decreased spaces between vertebrae while contrast x-rays reveal the degree of compression on the spinal cord itself. CSF analysis rules out inflammatory or infectious causes. CT and MRI scans giving detailed views of the damaged regions are vital for surgical treatment. These are done by our colleagues at Dick White Referrals.
For most pets, corticosteroids are beneficial when given on the same day that injury occurs. After that the most important component of treatment is rest, usually for about two weeks.
For older large pets suffering from chronic bulging discs, continued corticosteroids relieve pain but do not lessen the chance of recurrence. While rest is vital prevention of recurrence of disc disease best results may be achieved through surgical interventions.
Acupuncture May Help
Acupuncture is beneficial for many pets, with personalities amenable to this form of treatment, when pain is moderate or chronic. It is of no value for pets with serious spinal cord compression. Remember, the objective of any treatment is to reduce mental as well as physical stress and create the best environment for the body's natural power of repair to function in. Pets that are distressed by needles, strangers, car trips etc will not benefit from acupuncture if they find the procedure itself stress-making. Philippa Hanslip is responsible for acupuncture at the London Veterinary Clinic.