Symptoms of Canine Back Pain

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A dachshund sitting outside.
A dachshund sitting outside. (Image: MarkLeeClark/iStock/Getty Images)

Back pain can cause your dog extreme discomfort as well as severely limit his physical abilities. Because your dog cannot tell you if he is experiencing back pain, you need to be aware of his behavior and body language so you can recognize the signs that something is wrong. Recognizing the symptoms of pain is the first step in getting your dog the treatment he needs to feel better.

Physical Symptoms of Back Pain

Back pain can be difficult to diagnose because your dog may react to back pain with a variety of symptoms. Your dog may be suffering from back pain if you notice him walking or standing with an unusual or strange gait, hunching his back, stumbling, wobbling or if he appears to have suffered from an overall loss of coordination. Some dogs may suffer from a stiff neck or be unable to move their necks as a result of the pain. In cases of severe injury, your dog may be unwilling or unable to walk or move.

Visible Signs of Back Pain

In the case of some injuries, you may be able to see bruising or discoloration on the skin surrounding your dog's back and spine. You also may notice that your dog's back appears visibly curved.

Behavioral Signs of Injury

Any unexplained change in behavior should be looked at as a possible sign your pet is in pain. If your dog is experiencing back pain, he may whimper, howl, growl or attempt to get away from you when you touch his back. He also may be reluctant to perform physical activities that he previously enjoyed, such as playing, walking or climbing stairs. Additional symptoms can include fever, lethargy, weakness and refusal to eat.

Treating Your Dog's Back Pain

Back pain can be a sign of a serious health problem, such as a slipped disc or spinal fracture. You need to get your dog to the veterinarian immediately if you believe he has injured his spine. Your veterinarian most likely will perform an assortment of tests, including blood tests and X-rays, to diagnose the cause of the pain. He will then prescribe a treatment that may include medication to treat the condition causing the pain, medication for the pain itself and possibly even surgery.

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