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Management of Spinal Injuries in Dogs

Many smaller breed dogs present with varying symptoms of neurologic compromise after having herniated a disc. They may appear to walk somewhat wobbly or off-balance or be totally paralyzed and dragging their rear end on the ground. Varying degrees of pain and discomfort are present or they may be so severely paralyzed that they appear non-painful because the spinal cord is “numbed out” from being squished.  These three dogs illustrate the differing degrees of a presentation I commonly see at our hospital. The first dog was painful and reluctant to move and would stumble on its front limbs because of a herniating disc in the neck area. It responded well to a combination of special intravenous steroids as well as some other medications and can be seen walking normally within one day of aggressive medical management. While some veterinarians debate the usefulness of this regime to treat herniating disc injuries, the reality is that used intelligently it works very well with no adverse side effects as seen in this case. In spite of the debate, if you or I were to present similarly, we would unequivocably receive the same medical treatment administered to this dog. The second and third dogs presented acutely and totally paralyzed. A myelogram revealed extensive spinal cord compression (as seen on the x-ray) and so a combination of medical and surgical intervention was warranted. As seen in the video, the brown dog was back up and walking normally within 10 days of surgery. “Booger”, the black dog took a little longer but as can be seen in the video, is back up and walking well by 8 weeks after surgery; he should continue to make progress over the next few months and even the first full year after surgery. Prompt and aggressive medical and surgical intervention is warranted to achieve the best results in cases of paralysis, and success rates of approximately 90% (even in cases like Booger) can be expected.