Back pain in pets

Back pain is the bane of many people’s life. We are in good company, as it turns out, our four legged fury friends are not immune to back pain either.
The spinal cord is one of the most important and sensitive organs in the body. It is responsible for the transmission of the neurologic signals from the brain to the rest of the body and vise versa , hence responsible for the motor ability, sensation and reflexes. If it is damaged, the nerve cells do not regenerate but are replaced with fibrous or scar tissue. Spinal cord injuries may result in a permanent paralysis.
Spinal cord injuries may be a result of trauma (for example hit by car or sports injuries), arthritis of the vertebral column which leads to anatomical changes in the vertebrae, infections or even tumors. The most common reason for back pain in
Due to its sensitivity, the spinal cord is protected in a very special fashion. It runs through the vertebral column which protects it. It is basically surrounded by bones everywhere except in the junctions between the vertebrae. This  junctions between two adjacent vertebrae are filled by rubber like cushions called intervertebral discs. These discs are allowing the spinal flexibility and also serve as shock absorbents. There are two types of intarvertebral disc disease. The disc material undergoes chemical changes, it loses its elasticity, and ultimately raptures (in type 1) or bulges (in type 2) causing a direct pressure on the spinal cord . Pressure on the spinal cord results in pain and/or loss of information transmission causing partial or complete paralysis.
Type 1 of the disease is the more common form (%80 of cases). This condition is genetically inherited and most common in: Dachshunds, Beagles, Lhasa apsos, Pekingese, Shih Tzus, miniature Poodles,and Cocker spaniels. These breeds often start to develop the condition as puppies, although the signs usually don’t appear until the age of 3-6 years.
The type 2 of the condition is seen most often in large breed dogs, usually older then 5 years of age.
Dogs with back pain will be hunched over, or have their spine twisted to one side. The dog may have trouble moving and jumping or cry when you pick it  up. Severe cases result in a partial or complete paralysis.
The diagnosis of disc disease is not straight forward. After the initial information gathering the vet will conduct a physical exam. It is important to distinguish between back pain and abdominal pain. This can be challenging at times because many of the conditions that cause severe abdominal pain may appear as back pain. Once the vet establishes that the pain originates from the back he may suggest performing x rays. Since neither the disc nor the spinal cord are visible on X rays, the test may suggest but can not proof the disc herniation.  It can also help in ruling out the other causes of back pain. Disc disease is proven by performing either Myelogram, a specialized radiographic technique  that involves injection of contrast dye to the spinal cord in order to pinpoint the location of the spinal compression, or by performing CT.
The treatment for disc disease depends on the duration and severity of the condition. Conservative treatment of medication and strict cage rest may help in relieving the pressure on the spine. Surgical treatment is the only option for an actual removal of collapsed disc material. The surgery is not risk free and is recommended only in cases of complete paralysis or when there was no improvement with the medication treatment.
Unfortunately disc disease can not be prevented, but if your dog belongs to the breeds that are prone to the disease you should be more cautious and try to decrease any shocks on the spinal cord . Do not encourage your dog to jump. When you play fetch, roll the ball on the ground rather than throwing it high in the air. Hold your dog in your arms when going up and down the stairs and pick it up and down from furniture.
Take you dog to the vet when you notice the first signs of back pain. Early diagnosis may help in affecting the prognosis of your dog.