Intervertebral Disc Disease (slipped disc)
The dog's spine is made up of numerous small bones called vertebrae. These extend from the base of the skull all the way to the end of the tail. The vertebrae are interconnected by flexible discs made of cartilage - the intervertebral disc. These discs provide cushioning between each bone and permit the neck, spine and tail to bend, allowing changes in position and posture. Above the discs and running through the bony vertebrae is the spinal cord, which is made up of a mass of nerve fibers that run back and forth between the brain and the rest of the body. What is intervertebral disc disease?
As a disc becomes weaker with age or trauma, it may rupture, or herniate, causing a portion of the disc to protrude upward and place pressure on the spinal cord. This pressure typically prevents or inhibits nerve transmission along the spinal cord. The effect on the spinal cord will depend on the amount and severity of the pressure. Effects can include pain, weakness and paralysis. The location of the "ruptured disc" will also affect the cord. A disc herniation in the neck area may affect the entire body, while one in the middle of the dog's back may only affect the actions of the rear legs and abdominal organs.
Dogs with very long backs, such as dachshunds and Basset hounds, understandably have a greater incidence of disc disease in the middle of the back. In fact, This is the area most often affected in all dogs, regardless of the length of the dog's back. It seems that this area formed at the union of the chest and abdomen, suffers from the greatest amount of torsional stress and is more prone to injury.
In most cases we never find exactly when or what caused the disc to rupture. Surprisingly, this injury is rarely associated with severe trauma such as being hit by a car or falling from heights. In the smaller breeds, many believe it occurs when these dogs jump down off furniture.
When a disc first ruptures, it causes intense pain. When this occurs in the middle of the back the dog will arch its back up in pain. When the herniation takes place in the neck, the dog is unwilling to turn its head, and may not even want to lower it to eat and drink. Some dogs will shiver from the pain and walk very carefully and slowly. In severe herniations the back legs will be partially or completely paralyzed. This may be temporary or permanent. The nerves affecting the bladder and colon may also be affected making it difficult for the dog to urinate or defecate on it's own. This can obviously be a very serious condition and it is imperative that you seek veterinary care immediately.
Treatment almost always includes the use of anti-inflammatory medications such as cortisone (a steroid). These products help shrink the herniated disc and swollen tissue, and at the same time relieve any inflammation that may have occurred within the spinal cord. Painkillers such as buffered aspirin, Rimadyl or Etogesic may also be used in addition to the cortisone. Today more than 90% of all ruptured disc cases in this area of the back are handled with medical therapy alone. Surgery to either remove the protruding disc material or cut away a portion of the bone that surrounds the spinal cord is sometimes necessary. To be effective, however, surgery must usually be done within the first day or so following the injury. Whether medical, surgical or a combination of the two treatments is used, it may be several weeks before the actual outcome of the case can be determined. Long term prevention
It may take months before affected dogs heal completely. Restricting jumping activities is very important in preventing reoccurrence. Using a glucosamine and chondroitin product supplement is also highly recommended to help speed recovery and strengthen the damaged cartilage. More disc Information at the bottom of this page.
Lumbosacral Stenosis (Cauda Equina Syndrome)
Water ( Walrus ) Puppies (picture below)
While this is not in itself a vertebral column defect, it is most commonly seen associated with a combination of vertebral column defects. It appears that various combinations of two or more of the following: brachycephalic head, short body length and/or abnormal tail length, leads to a higher than incidence of walrus "fluid" -Water- (anasarca) puppies in breeds so affected.
Walrus puppies are nearly twice the size of a normal puppy due to enormous fluid retention under the skin. Often these puppies have further abnormalities particularly cleft palates. These puppies, invariably by their size, result in caesarian births. In breeds where there are high incidences of walrus puppies, a simple recessive inheritance pattern has been postulated. Walrus puppies can still appear randomly in other breeds but the incidence is usually low.
The terms "water",or "walrus", puppies refers to newborn pups afflicted with edema varying from mild to severe. These huge, swollen, waterlogged puppies are about twice the size of normal pups, often born alive, but are weak and limp, they are heavy and look as though someone blew them up like a balloon. Bulldogs seem to have a higher than normal incidence of this affliction. Other breeds have also reported having walrus puppies, the Shar Pei, Bullmastiff, Basset, Boston Terrier and Chihuahuas. In the past, the puppies afflicted with this were put down by the vet, or failed to be resuscitated. The cause of this condition is not known at the time of this writing.
Some veterinarians have recently had great success using Lasix in the treatment of this problem. Lasix is the brand name of the chemical Furosemide. Furosemide is a diuretic-saluretic. What it does is, it inhibits the reabsorption of sodium. The drug is administered intravenously immediately after birth of the water pup. It is important that you consult your veterinarian if you should suspect that your female dog may deliver water puppies.
Some signs for you to watch your pregnant female for are: drinking large amounts of water, nipples and surrounding tissues have a shiny look.
This condition is primarily in flat-face breeds, such as, Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, French Bulls, and Pugs, it has been seen in other breeds to a limited degree. At birth, the pups are larger than normal, because of fluid under the skin. This can be in varying degrees from barely detectable or a pup may be twice the size of a normal mate.
Water pups are born alive (most of the time) because their oxygen and nutrition is being delivered from the dam, through the umbilical cord. After birth, the pup's lungs should start functioning, however, when they are full of fluid, they often suffocate soon after birth. You may see one water pup in a litter, or an entire litter being involved. The mild to medium effected pups that survive the first 2 - 3 days, seem to become normal.
Treatment needs to be immediate and intense for a water pup. First, elevate the head and extend the neck for a more clear air way. Take one or two fingers and rub the genitalia to encourage urination. Administer furosemide(Lasix) .1 to .2 ml intramuscularly, to increase urination, this can be repeated every 30 to 45 minutes for three injections. Caution: more than three could cause dehydration. Keep the pups warm and stimulate urination as described above every 2 - 3 minutes. Do no give up: mildly effected pups can take 30 to 90 minutes to breath normally. Moderately effected pups take 90 minutes to 4 hours to breath more normal. Severely effected pups are difficult to save, they usually drown before 30 minutes have passed.