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Black dachshund standing in front of a gray wall for The Dig article about dog neck and back pain

Health & Wellness

Dog neck and back pain: symptoms and treatments

Getting to the bottom of your pup's pain

A sore neck and back are all too common among people — you’ve likely felt a shooting pain that comes after the smallest movement at some point in your life. Our pets, especially dogs, also experience that same pain in the neck and back. How can you tell? They often yelp or whimper when they move in certain ways. 

There are several reasons why your dog might be in pain, and many treatment options that can help them feel better. Veterinarian and pet health advocate Dr. Aliya McCullough explains the causes of dogs’ neck and back pain and how to help them feel comfortable. 

What causes back and neck pain in dogs?

Neck and back pain in dogs is most commonly caused by Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD), or a slipped or bulging disc in the spine. IVDD happens in response to the breakdown of disc material, which can be a product of genetics. Normally, disc material acts as a shock absorber between the vertebrae and spine, so as it breaks down, your pet is left in a lot of pain. But this isn’t always the cause of back or neck pain in dogs — if your vet rules out this cause, ask about trauma, infections or tumors. 

Certain dog breeds are at higher risk of experiencing dog and neck pain, too. Any dog with a long back and short legs is susceptible to back pain. Unfortunately, dog breeds like dachshunds, beagles, poodles, German Shepherds, Shih Tzus, bulldogs, Doberman Pinschers, Pekingese and Lhasa Apsos have a higher risk of developing IVDD. However, any dog can experience back or neck pain at some point in their life.

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Symptoms of back and neck pain in dogs

There are a couple of key symptoms that indicate neck or back pain in dogs, like muscle spasms, or involuntary twitches due to pain. Talk to your veterinarian if your dog is showing any signs of pain, including:

  • Standing in a rigid position
  • Avoiding movement
  • Arching their back
  • Incoordination
  • Muscle weakness 
  • Unable to move limbs or look upward
Symptoms of dog neck and back pain

Back and neck pain treatment options for dogs

Take your dog to the vet as soon as possible if you think they’re experiencing back or neck pain. In most cases, a dog’s back and neck pain can be managed with anti-inflammatory medication and lots of rest (but your vet will know what’s best). Never give your pup ibuprofen or Tylenol when they are experiencing back and neck pain, as it’s toxic and can cause severe health issues. 

Use caution if you need to carry your pup for any reason. Some quick tips to comfortably transport a dog with neck and back pain are: 

  • Place one hand or arm under their chest and the other supporting their bottom half 
  • Keep their back as straight as possible 
  • Minimize unnecessary movement 
  • Don’t pull your pup

How to prevent back and neck pain in dogs

When dogs carry extra weight, it can put additional stress on their backs (especially for pups with longer backs). Making sure your dog remains physically fit and lean (especially if they’re at risk for developing IVDD) can help them avoid neck and back pain. 

If your dog ever experiences back or neck pain, you now know the potential causes and how to help them feel good again.

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Photo by Erda Estremera on Unsplash

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