If you suspect a back issue, it is important that you treat it, as though it is a serious back injury. In that, keep your pup crated, only allowing them to potty, on leash (if mobile), until you can get to your vet for a full evaluation and diagnosis. It is best to carry your pup to and from the potty location, to be safe.
Do NOT assume it's a fluke, and rely on your pup feeling all better in a day. Pain, wobble walking or lethargy, of any kind, is a pre-cursor to potential bigger problems. Yelping, for no apparent reason, can be a sign of potential back problems.
However, not every back pain is IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease), nor is it a death sentence (surgery or death), if it is. So, our 1st recommendation is: DON'T PANIC! Be calm and know that your pup will be okay. Don't let the fear of not knowing overwhelm you.
One of the BEST resources for information, support and education for IVDD is:
The provide a very thorough list of what to do, and what NOT to do. Their information is based on a compilation of information and experiences of pet owners, from all over the world, who have gone through this. There are some things that are typical, and some things you may need to rely on your vet to help you through. However, there is also a wonderful support group, with pet owners, like yourself, who have been there; and, are more than willing to share their experience and time with you!
Meanwhile, here are the basics:
There are 3 types of injuries, common with IVDD:
Disc Rupture ~ unable to walk, stand or feel legs; may also be screaming in pain.
What to do now: CRATE REST!
If screaming in pain ~ ER Vet! Take to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Time is of essence for recovery.
What happens with a rupture; the disc is composed of a jelly-like substance, which, over time, will calcify. To prevent potential damage to the spinal cord, surgery is preformed, to remove the debris before it has the chance to damage the spine, should it be in a position to press against the spine. That is why they recommend surgery within the first 48 hours from injury. As time passes, the debris calcifies and what damage can be done, will be too late to prevent.
Over time, the body will absorb the debris, which is why it is essential, if you cannot afford the surgery, to keep your dog crated, with little to no movement, other than to potty. If your dog cannot potty on their own, you will need to learn how to express them, to prevent complications, if they are not free-flowing.
Disc Herniation ~ wobble walking, unable to walk (short term), or dragging/favoring one leg over the other, pup may also scream out in pain, as most herniation sites are also bruised.
What to do now: CRATE REST! If screaming in pain ~ ER Vet! Take to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Time is of essence here, also.
What is happening is the disc is on the verge of a potential rupture, and is bulging, which compresses against the spine. Allowing your pup to walk around, hoping it will resolve itself, can result in full rupture of the disc. These symptoms may also be indications of other issues, which is why it is so important to let your veterinarian evaluate and diagnose.
Regardless, you will want to crate your pup for the same amount of time, as you would for a pup with a rupture or following surgery. 6-8 weeks is the standard. It doesn't matter how "good to go" your pup seems to be, you need to give their body the chance for a FULL recovery. Prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Spinal/Disc Bruising ~ Yelping without being down, or when touched, head tilted or hanging down, hesitation in steps, limping, panting while at rest.
What to do now: CRATE REST! If screaming out in pain, non stop ~ ER Vet! Take your pup to your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Often times, a pup will jump up or down, or simply step the wrong way and bruise their spine/disc. Most likely it is on the underside of the column, which is why they cry out, when you pick them up, but not when you check their back. Do not assume it will heal itself, or that it is any less severe, than the other two injuries. This can lead to the other two, if not addressed immediately.
Keep in mind, that every dog is different, and these are NOT always simple signs. If your dog also has lethargy, or dull eyes, there may be other issues going on, which need immediate care.
If the eyes are showing dullness, use a pin light to check if the pupils are even in their dilation. Uneven pupils are a sign of VERY serious illness, not necessarily related to a back injury. Any time your dog stops acting normal, becomes limp or lethargic, without due cause (you don't know why) ~ This is an emergency vet visit!
What you can expect from your vet visit in any of these cases is an X-ray, to determine the extent of potential injury. They will not be able to determine the compression level; that will require an MRI or CT scan, which would be done by a surgical specialist. Most IVDD cases will be referred to a specialist, who would be prepared to perform the surgery immediately.
At the very least, your vet will give you medications for pain and inflammation. In some cases they will prescribe a muscle relaxer (usually for pinch or herniation cases). Every pup is different, so we cannot tell you exactly what to expect. You really need your vet to give you their expert opinion.
We can tell you that, no matter what, there is hope.
Not every dog recovers, to walk again, even with surgery. They only give you a 50/50 chance of recovery, no matter what. So, know that there are no promises or guarantee, even with the best medical specialist on board.
Now, on the other hand, there is always HOPE for a pup to walk again, even when your best of the best specialists or veterinarians give up. We have seen it, proven it, and believe it is possible for EVERY IVDD kid to walk again. However, it takes a LOT of work to help that happen. And, even though a pup can be trained to walk again, they may not regain other functions, such as bladder/bowel control.
The level of commitment is great, in any case, and we hope you are able to give your pup that level. And, while you may believe it's a level you couldn't possibly handle, you may be surprised to know, that it isn't as hard as you think. Knowledge is power; and we believe everyone has the power to help their pup heal.
There are alternative methods of treatment, for every level of IVDD injury. Laser therapy, chiropractics, acupuncture and herbal treatments may help, but you want to continue massage, water and other holistic follow-up therapies, at home.