Slipped Disc, Bad Back, and Muscle Spasms in Dogs

Intervertebral disk disease is degeneration and protrusion of the intervertebral disk that results in compression of the spinal cord, spinal nerve, and/or nerve root. It is a common cause of spinal cord disease in dogs. 

In this condition, the cushioning discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column either bulge or burst (herniate) into the spinal cord space. These discs then press on the nerves running through the spinal cord causing pain, nerve damage, and even paralysis.

Although all dogs can be affected by IVDD, Dachshund, Beagle, Basset Hound and Shih Tzu are more prone to this disorder.

Intervertebral discs are basically the shock absorbers of the body. They are made up of gelatinous substance surrounded by a thick outer layer. Disc herniation is of two types, Type 1 and Type 2, of which Type 2 has less severe signs and symptoms.

The observable signs of intervertebral disk disease can be quite variable. Owners of affected dogs may notice one or more of the following symptoms, which can be sudden, intermittent or gradual in onset:

Neck pain and stiffness (reluctance to move the neck and head)

Lowered head stance

Back pain and stiffness

Yelping unexpectedly when touched or moving

Abdominal tenderness or tenseness

Arched back (hunched posture, called “thoracolumbar kyphosis”)

Sensitivity to touch (possible aggression)

Sensitivity to movement

Impaired, incomplete or inappropriate urination


Dragging one or more legs when walking

“Toeing over” or “knuckling over” when walking or standing



Stilted gait; tentative gait

Reluctance to rise

Tremors, trembling, shaking

Lack of coordination (“ataxia”)

Abnormal reflexes


Paralysis in one or more limbs

Acute traumatic injury is not the same as IVDD, although the symptoms can be very similar. IVDD involves a degenerative process and does not result merely from sudden trauma, although sudden trauma can cause rupture or herniation of an intervertebral disk in a dog whose disks already are weakened by IVDD.   

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