Thursday, September 5, 2013

Canine Disc Disease

Canine Disc Disease

Canine disc disease, also referred to as slipped, ruptured, herniated or prolapsed disc is the most common neurological problem in dogs. Dogs' spinal columns contain 26 intervertebral (meaning between each vertebrae) discs, which are like donut-shaped jelly masses that act as shock absorbers. Although any dog can be affected, there are certain breeds that are more susceptible. Having disc disease can cause many other problems and even lead to paralysis.

Types of Discs

There are two main types of discs in canines. The first is known as the chondrodystrophoid disc, and they degenerate rapidly beginning when the dogs are young. Signs of problems with this type of discs usually appear between the ages of 3 and 7. The other type of disc is the non-chondrodystrophoid disc, also known as fibroid discs. These discs tend to degenerate over a longer period of time.

Types of Disease

There are two types of canine disc disease. Type I disc herniation occurs when the nuclear, or jelly, material extrudes out and presses on the spinal cord. This extrusion usually occurs in an explosive manner, causing significant injury to the spinal cord and resulting in pain. Type I disc disease is most common in chondrodystrophoid discs. Type II disc disease occurs when there is a bulge in the disc. This usually occurs in fibroid type discs and happens over time. This type of disease is not as acute and the signs appear slowly.

Common Breeds

Although canine disc disease can occur in any dog, especially in response to trauma or an injury, it is more prevalent in some breeds. The breeds known as chondrodystrophoid breeds including cocker spaniels, dachshunds (which are at the highest risk), beagles, basset hounds and corgis are most susceptible for type I disc disease. Large breeds, such as dobermans, are at risk of developing type II disc disease.


The spinal cord, vertebrae, and discs, run from the dogs' neck to the tail. There are two main regions that disc disease occurs, the cervical (neck) region and the thoracolumbar (mid to lower back) region. About 85 percent of all type I disc disease cases occur in the thoracolumbar region with the remaining 15 percent in the cervical region.


The most prominent clinical sign of disc disease is spinal pain. The pain may be visible as trouble walking, trouble urinating and lameness. If the discs in the neck are affected, the pain may cause trembling of the neck muscles and the dog may be reluctant to move their head, even to eat or drink. Lower back pain may cause dogs to cry when picked up, arch their back or drag their back legs. Mild damage to the spinal cord can also cause wobbliness (ataxia). Paresis, or weakness, in the legs is a sign of moderate damage to the spinal cord. If the condition is left untreated, the paresis can develop into paralysis in which the dog is not able to move its legs.


There are two treatment options available, non-surgical and surgical. Non-surgical treatment involves the use of anti-inflammatory and pain medications and will usually only work at the first signs of pain before the dog shows any trouble walking. Surgery is the best option to stop the progression of the disease and allow the dog a positive prognosis.

Tags: disc disease, spinal cord, type disc, type disc disease, canine disc, damage spinal