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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 23837
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience
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We are in Colorado on vacation and out of the blue our 5

Customer Question

We are in Colorado on vacation and out of the blue our 5 year old Maltese started walking funny - he did not seem to want to put pressure on his back legs. Within a few hours his back legs were almost dragging if he tried to walk. He has an appetite and is drinking water. He seemed fine otherwise but it has now been 24 hours and the legs seem worse and not better. He has not spent much time outside - we have been here a few weeks, but have only taken him out to use the bathroom, so the odds of Lyme disease are pretty low. He just sits with me and we have either crated him or I have made sure he just rests.
Submitted: 3 months ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 3 months ago.

Degenerative disk disease (a "slipped disk") should be the most important differential diagnosis in a Maltese of his age. Supportive evidence of a disk may include vocalizing when approached or lifted, having trouble jumping up or down and navigating steps, ataxia (“drunken sailor”), trembling/shaking (pain responses), a change in posture such as the neck held rigidly and head lower to the ground or a"hunch" in his back, and a change in behavior - a normally social dog becoming aloof or, conversely, a normally aloof dog becoming "clingy". A local vet will want to carefully palpate (feel) about your dog's spine looking for areas of hyperpathia (increased sensitivity) suggestive of a disk. Conservative care involves the use of a nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug (NSAID) such as carprofen or meloxicam, a narcotic analgesic such as tramadol, and a skeletal muscle relaxant such as methocarbamol or diazepam. These drugs are usually administered for at least ten days. Most simple disks will remiss within a few weeks. It's important to keep these dogs as quiet as possible lest they hurt themselves further.

Should paresis (weakness) or paralysis arise in any limb(s) as appears to be the case at this time, he'll need the attention of a vet at your earliest convenience. Such dogs are then surgical candidates for spinal cord decompression. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.

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