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Back and Disc Disease

Injury to the spine, intervertebral discs, and spinal cord are very serious and require immediate medical care for the best outcome.  Quick intervention can preserve function and limit damage to the spinal cord.  Weakness, stumbling, or dragging toes or a limb, or inability to stand can all be symptoms of back or disc injury.  Back injury is a medical EMERGENCY!

Depending on where the injury might be, some animals are very painful and might even cry out, where others cannot feel their limbs at all.  A thorough neurologic exam by one of our veterinarians will help pinpoint the problem,  and might include imaging such as X-ray or CT Scan.

Back surgery is sometimes necessary to save function.

Certain cases of back injury might require immediate surgery to improve function and limit destruction to the spinal cord.  The longer the time between injury and surgery can greatly diminish the chances that your pet will recover function, so back injuries are considered extreme emergencies.   Consultation with a veterinarian will help you determine if surgery is recommended for your pet and what the risk versus benefits might be.  

Disc Disease Symptoms

  • weakness of one or multiple limbs, most commonly hind legs, and you might see shaking, trembling or inability to stand

  • irregular placement of feet when walking that might appear as wobbling, weaving, or knuckling-over

  • complete inability to use or feel hind legs or tail

  • if spine injury is near the head or neck, you might see inability to turn head or bend neck 

Jumping Aussie excellent spine function

Medical Management and Rehabilitation:  


Most cases of back and spinal cord injury do not require surgery and are managed with medications to reduce spinal cord swelling and dysfunction.  Pain control and physical rehabilitation will also greatly enhance the comfort and recovery of your pet.  Alpine Animal Clinic is unique in offering rehabilitation care with an underwater treadmill.

Our state-of-the-art Rehabilitation Center is complete with Water Treadmill to accurately and specifically target the needs of your pet by pinpointing depth of water and thereby the amount of weightbearing, resistance, and strength training as your pet recovers. Simple floating and swimming in a pool does not allow for changes in your pet's condition by increasing resistance and ability to bear weight gradually, but simply floats them passively with a life jacket.  A water treadmill allows passive floatation too, for any size patient, but has the great advantage of allowing careful and gradual return to weight-bearing and resistance to effectively increase muscle tone, coordination and condition.  This improves recovery and strength far beyond a simple swimming pool.

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