Canine degenerative disc disease is a painful ailment of the spinal column that causes varying degrees of pain or paralysis. In this condition, the discs of fluid rupture or leak, removing the cushion between the vertebrae. Fluid that leaks from the disc can result in gradually increasing pain, and a complete rupture will cause drastic pain very suddenly. The treatment of canine degenerative disc disease depends on the degree of degeneration. Where the problem areas are located determines what areas of the dog are affected. Neck-to-shoulder degenerative disc disease can result in total paralysis, and lower-back areas are usually confined to the rear legs. Any area of the spine can be affected, and the disease can vary in severity.
The very first thing dog owners should do when they suspect degenerative disc disease is restrict activity and keep the dog as calm as possible. Crate rest until veterinary attention can be obtained is a must to prevent further injury. A small room such as a bathroom where there is no furniture to jump on is a good alternative if a large enough crate is not available.
If your dog is diagnosed with stage 1 degenerative disc disease, your veterinarian will probably prescribe confinement for a period of time and possibly a mild sedative to help keep your dog calm. Stage 1 is usually a small leak, and as long as no further injury or stress occurs to the area, it often is self-healing. Bear in mind that once a dog has exhibited signs of the disease, it is likely to have a lifetime problem with the disease, and affected areas are likely to re-injure if care is not taken to avoid hard play, jumping or excessive exertion.
Stages 2 and 3
These stages are often accompanied by more severe pain and, depending on the severity, possibly staggering, limping and paralysis of one or more limbs. This stage is usually treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, pain relievers, and confinement for a longer period of time than stage 1 to determine if the condition will not correct itself. If pain continues over a period of time, surgery may be required to fuse the vertebrae involved.
Stages 4 and 5
Stages 4 and 5 both involve definitive paralysis, although in stage 4, feeling is still present. In stage 5, the dog will not be able to feel any manipulation of paralysed limbs. In both stages, surgery is the best treatment. In stage 5, degenerative disc disease should be surgically corrected immediately to relieve the spinal pressure in hopes that feeling will return to the area affected.
With veterinary intervention, prognosis for most canine degenerative disc disease is very good. Surgical intervention is 95 per cent effective for most stages if caught in time. Stages 1 through 3 have the longest time periods where pet owners can observe and wait before seeking veterinary help. In those stages, it is wise to make a veterinary appointment within a week for the best chance of success. Stage 4 and 5 involve more immediate concerns, but there is no mistaking the severity of the problem and no need to wait to see if it will improve on its own. Chances of success drop drastically after 24 hours in stages 4 and 5.