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Dr. John
Dr. John, Small animal veterinarian, ER vet
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 1205
Experience:  significant surgical and medicine background, currently working as emergency clinic veterinarian
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My dog is walking with his head down, has pain on his left

Resolved Question:

My dog is walking with his head down, has pain on his left side around his neck and appears to have pain in his left leg. He cannot go up the stairs. When he put his left front paw on the first stair he appeared to be in pain. Any idea what might be wrong? He is a 80 pound black lab, about 8 years old.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. John replied 2 years ago.

Dr. John :

Thank you for your question concerning Shooter. Has the issue improved at all since last evening?

Customer:

no.

Dr. John :

Did he do any activities that could have resulted in this injury or did it come on for no apparent reason?

Customer:

it just happened at midnight

Dr. John :

Can you look and see if his pupils are the same size?

Customer:

We went for our normal nightly walk around 6:30. He appeared fine at that time. I went out after that. When I got home around 11pm he was walking funny with his head down. we went to bed upstairs. My friend stopped by around midnight, shooter went to the door down stair and could not go back up, He let out a yelp when I touched the left side of his neck. I took off his collar and he yelpped again. I directed him to lay down and rest there. This morning I feed him. he did walk a little, but still with his head down. He let out a yelp when he got up. He's now laying down again


 



Dr. John :

Okay, thanks for the additional information

Dr. John :

So since the neck and the leg are affected, this is likely to be an issue with the spinal cord where the nerves for the front leg come out of the spinal cord (this is called the brachial plexus region)

Dr. John :

There are a few things that could be going on to cause this, and to really figure it out you would need to pursue further diagnostics

Dr. John :

1 - intervertebral disc disease - disc material is present between each vertebrae of the spine, and if the disc material becomes unhealthy, it can herniate into the spinal cord area and cause pain, lameness, and sometimes even paresis/paralysis - unfortunately an advanced test is needed to look for this such as an MRI or a myelogram

Dr. John :

2 - a tumor developing around these nerves or within one of these nerves. This is less common than disc disease but can happen. Only an MRI can differentiate between a tumor and a disc

Dr. John :

3 - an infection or tumor of the vertebrae - both of these would be apparent on x-ray because of the changes that would be present within the vertebrae bone

Dr. John :

So as far as finding an actual diagnosis, those are the things you would need to look into

Dr. John :

Of course a soft tissue injury, muscle pull, etc is also possible but without some sort of traumatic activity (pain after jumping off of something high, rough housing with another dog, etc) makes this less likely

Dr. John :

If you wanted to try some treatment before going into further diagnostics to see if he improves at all, you can certainly do this

Dr. John :

An anti-inflammatory such as a corticosteroid (prednisone) or a dog specific NSAID, such as Rimadyl, would be good options to try for a few days to look for improvement

Dr. John :

Intervertebral disc disease can definitely improve with rest and anti-inflammatories, however sometimes there is no improvement with medical management and surgery needs to be considered for adequate improvement

Dr. John :

Here is an article concerning intervertebral disc disease - http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=3223

Customer:

I do have stairs and he goes up and down all the time. I've seen him in the past twist his back leg pretty good once.


 



Dr. John :

Okay - so it is definitely possible that the stairs could have resulted in an injury

Dr. John :

Unfortunately navigating the stairs should be eliminated from his activities regardless, is this a possibility?

Customer:

just until he recovers or for ever?

Dr. John :

I would honestly say forever would be safest. If this is just a temporary injury, it would probably be more likely to occur in the future if navigating the stairs is the cause

Dr. John :

I know that makes things difficult, but is that a possibility?

Dr. John :

Also, is Shooter overweight at all?

Dr. John :

Getting him to a leaner weight, if not already, will help tremendously, regardless of the cause

Customer:

no he is very fit. The house is a split house so without access to the stairs he would be cut off from alot.

Dr. John :

Hmm. How about putting a baby gait, and only allowing him to navigate them minimal times daily?

Dr. John :

Also, if someone comes to the door and he is upstairs, it can stop him from running down to quickly, etc

Dr. John :

So basically what I'm saying is if it wouldn't be fair to completely stop use of the stairs, I would significantly limit the use

Dr. John :

He is obviously too big to carry up and down, so I think that is your best option

Customer:

he runns up and then turns half way on the stairs all the time.

Dr. John :

Yes - so I would place a baby gate for most of the time so he can't do this

Dr. John :

That will certainly help

Customer:

is there any pain meds I can buy at Petsmart to give him for now. He's way too big to carry and bring into the vet

Dr. John :

At petsmart no, not really

Dr. John :

You should definitely talk with your vet before doing so, but aspirin is an okay OTC choice

Dr. John :

tylenol, aleve, etc ARE NOT

Customer:

human aspirin?

Dr. John :

yes

Dr. John :

Plain aspirin though, no additives

Dr. John :

I typically give 10mg PER pound bodyweight, 2-3x daily as needed if I am unable to give better options

Dr. John :

But definitely just run by your vet before giving, he/she should be kept in the loop!

Customer:

Is intervertebral disc disease curable in dogs?

Dr. John :

If the disc has herniated, the only actual cure is surgery

Dr. John :

To remove the disc material that has herniated into the spinal cord canal

Dr. John :

Do you have any further questions?

Customer:

I have the same thing and Ican tell you surgery does not work on humans very well.

Dr. John :

If it is just bulging and has not herniated, anti-inflammatories and rest can potentially clear up all of the symptoms, however the bulging disc remains and can cause future problems

Customer:

ok thank you very much.

Dr. John :

It's done on dogs a lot, only as last resort

Dr. John :

We have pretty good success but it is definitely more challenging in larger dogs

Dr. John :

We only really consider it if there is constant serious pain (like what Shooter is doing now, continued on for a few weeks despite rest and meds) OR if there is any paralysis

Customer:

ok thank you

Dr. John :

Welcome :-)

Dr. John :

Any other questions?

Customer:

nope thank u

Dr. John, Small animal veterinarian, ER vet
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 1205
Experience: significant surgical and medicine background, currently working as emergency clinic veterinarian
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Dr. John
Dr. John
Dog Veterinarian
1205 Satisfied Customers
significant surgical and medicine background, currently working as emergency clinic veterinarian