I have been treating dogs for over 6 years and I am sure that many of our dogs have back pain. I will often see a dog for a health check and the owner will just be interested in massage but will tell me their dog isn't in pain. Unfortunately, for many of these dogs this isn't the case and I will often find back pain is present.
As back pain is so common and so often missed I and a colleague had a Facebook live chat about the signs to look for and some simple tips to help your dog. Click here to be taken to the chat. I hope you find it useful.
But to summarise the signs of back pain that we discussed:
How your dog moves
- a change in how your dog moves - do they move between a trot and a pace and is this new
- are they rocking from side to side
- does the back flex side to side and evenly as they move - particularly in a walk
- are they 'crabbing' with the body angled to one side whilst they move in a straight line
- less stretching or more attempts at stretching but never quite as deep as they used to stretch
- hesitation when trying to lie down or getting a little way down and then just dropping down into a down
- does your dog shake throughout the whole body with a clear wave from the neck through the back to the end of the tail? If not, then back pain is very likely.
- legs under the body and the elbows, wrists, knees and hocks held under the body, so the dog looks shorter
- the back arching upward - roaching, often combined with hips tucked under the body
- the back sways downwards and the shoulders and hips look quite high in comparison to the bottom of the sway
- twitching in the back - when the dog stretches or the dogs head reaches up or down
- uneven nail wear on a foot and between feet
- rubbing the body against hard surfaces or rubbing the back on the floor
- licking and nibbling joints in the legs
- touch sensitivity and reluctance to be handled or groomed
- reluctance to interact or play with unknown dogs or people - if this is a new behaviour
- being behind on walks, slowing down and sniffing more
If your dog participates in a performance based activity, look out for:
- slower, not pulling into a harness as effectively
- knocking poles, missing contacts, slower weaves or avoidance behaviours
- slower in the retrieve
Activities of daily living
- seems to double think when jumping onto furniture or the car
- reluctance to use the stairs
- walking upstairs, bunny hopping up the stairs, stopping on the stairs
- reluctance to walk on hard, slippery floors which might be seen as a dog running fast to spend as little time as possible on a floor or a dog walking with a very short stride and a slow deliberate cautious pace
- are they eating and drinking with ease or do they look uncomfortable reaching down to access their bowls
- a dog with back pain can and often will play with other dogs, chase a ball or chase a squirrel. The adrenaline will override the pain signals - until they get home
How to help your dog
- add grip to the flooring in the house. Non slip rugs in areas the dog is moving around, particularly in areas where there will be a speed or direction change
- restrict access to stairs
- raise feeding and water bowls
- use a dog bed that is easy to get into and out of, supports your dogs spine, allows for a full stretch out and is placed in a warm, draught free location.
- use a house coat indoors if they feel the cold and always wearing a coat outdoors when you would be wearing a coat
- if your dog has back pain keep walks short when it is really cold outside.