Symptoms of Back Pain in Dogs

Whether it comes as the result of an accident, or it comes with age, back pain in dogs is an unfortunate circumstance. Your dog’s health and well-being are directly related to how active and mobile he is, and back pain is one of the most common limiters of canine mobility. Here are a list and description of the most common back pain in dogs symptoms.

Limping

This symptom is a critical indicator that there is something wrong with your dog’s physical well-being. Even if you don’t actively watch your dog’s every move, a limp is an obvious and easily recognizable symptom to keep on eye out for. MSPCA reminds readers that every dog has their physical limitations, and you, as his owner, are likely aware of your dog’s limits. However, when his mobility is compromised while doing normal daily activities, it should be a red flag to you as an owner that something is wrong. Pain is personal to every dog, and just like humans, every threshold for pain is different.

There are two myths about limping that you need to put to rest in your mind. The first is that sometimes dogs will limp for attention. Dogs cannot fake an injury to get attention. If your dog is limping, it is due to the fact that he is legitimately injured, and you, as his owner, need to take action to help him.

Second, there is a misnomer that if a dog walks with a limp but still runs when prompted, he is not “that injured.” This is blatantly false. Your dog’s desire to run is instinctual, and when his brain tells him to run, a whole lot of endorphins and adrenaline are released. These chemicals temporarily block out the pain, which is why it seems like your dog doesn’t have any trouble running. If your dog is walking with a limp, he is hurt, and it is even more vital that you do not let him run, despite what his instincts are telling him. 

Lethargy

Just as pain tolerance is different for every dog, energy levels vary depending on age, size, breed, and daily activity level. The more active your dog is, the more eager he will be to move regularly. Wag asserts that if your dog’s energy levels suddenly decrease, it is a clear warning sign of physical distress. While canine lethargy is a common symptom of ailments in dogs, it is often tied to the physical fatigue of back pain. 

Your dog’s back is a large and complex system of muscles, bones, and joints that regulate his ability to move. As a result, if his back is in pain, his desire to move will be one of the first things to go. Typically your dog will show multiple symptoms of back pain, but lethargy is one of the more telling signs, especially when it is combined with other symptoms on the list.

Limited Mobility

Much like limping, limited mobility is something that likely only you as an owner will be able to define with confidence. This symptom is mainly dependent on what is considered “normal” for your dog. Many owners describe limited mobility as the inability to do something that was once a common practice for their dog. Limited mobility can range in scope from no longer being able to jump into your car to no longer being able to walk up a small flight of stairs. 

Bad Posture

This symptom may seem strange as posture may not be something you associate with your dog. The natural posture for dogs is to be upright on all four legs with their head up, chest out, and exhibiting a small concave bend in the back. A dog who is experiencing back pain will not only show a reluctance to standing, but they will also visibly hunch and arch their back when standing up.

Posture can vary depending on size and breed, but the American Kennel Club dictates that there are specific markers that define proper canine posture. One of the most significant markers of canine posture is the ability to go from standing to sitting to laying without any hesitation or signs of visible discomfort. If your dog has a hard time sitting or standing or does so with bad posture, it is more than likely a symptom of back pain.

While the symptoms above are the most common and easy to spot, additional symptoms of back pain include loss of appetite, whimpering and whining, and even crawling or an unwillingness to walk. Every dog deals with pain in his own way, and you are the best judge of when your dog is uncomfortable. If you believe your dog is exhibiting symptoms of pain in any capacity, do not delay in taking him to the vet. 

It is important to remember that while there are symptoms of back pain, back pain itself can be a symptom of a greater medical threat like slipped discs, tumors, or organ failure. As with all canine ailments, your vet is the best person to make an official diagnosis. While you should make efforts to assist your dog and make him more comfortable while he is in pain, the treatment plan provided by your vet is the best way to alleviate pain and promote healing. 

 

Sources:

“Neck and Back Pain in Dogs – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost.” WagWalking, Wag!, 6 May 2016, wagwalking.com/condition/neck-and-back-pain.

“Recognizing Neck and Back Pain in Dogs • MSPCA-Angell.” MSPCA, www.mspca.org/angell_services/neck-and-back-pain/.

“What Is Posture and Why Should We Care About It?” American Kennel Club, 22 Jan. 2018, www.akc.org/expert-advice/dog-breeding/what-is-posture-and-why-should-we-care-about-it/.

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