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JoAnne, Veterinary Assistant
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 85
Experience:  I was a volunteer at the Cincinnati Zoo, Also I do Dog Rescue for handicapped animals
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yellow lab: that weight 75 lbs, he has been in great shape

Customer Question

I have a 7 year old yellow lab that weight 75 lbs, he has been in great shape. recently we had him camping and he was swimming for long time. later that day he could hardly move. it's been several months now and he just doesn't seem to be getting much better. now he sometimes wimpers when getting up and doesn't have the same bounce since, any suggestions
Submitted: 11 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  JoAnne replied 11 years ago.
Have you seen a Veterinarian? What you are describing sounds like arthiritis which there are several over the counter medications that can be used to restore lubrication in the joints, such as glucosomine It may take several weeks before you may see a diffrence but it does work. here is a link to let you know a little more about it:

Also I wouldnt rule out a ear infection either your best bet would be to see a Vet! Hope this helps!
Customer: replied 11 years ago.
Reply to Joann Canafax's Post: Yes we have seen the vet! but not a specialist. The vet gave him a shot of cortazone which just masks the simptons for a week or so. We have a 9 year old lab who has been on glucosamine for over a year because of hip displasia. I've owned Labs for over 30 years and have never seen anything like this before with such a healthy dog. I feel it may be a spinal injury and hope to get him in this week to be checked.

Thanks anyway.
Expert:  JoAnne replied 11 years ago.
The "herniated disc" is a common back injury in people who take a fall or strain their backs. Likewise, dogs can suffer from herniated vertebral discs that can lead to severe pain or paralysis. Dr. Dianne Dunning, veterinary surgeon at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, explains that though these injuries can be serious, there are effective treatments, such as physical rehabilitation and surgery.

Between each pair of vertebrae there sits an intervertebral disc, which Dr. Dunning compares to a jelly donut. "An outer fibrous ring called the annulus fibrosis is like the cake donut, and it is filled with a dense, shock-absorbing material called the nucleus pulposus, which is like the jelly."

If the "jelly" becomes calcified and hard, it loses its shock-absorbing capacity. Pressure or trauma can cause the calcified material to bulge or explode into the nearby spinal canal, which houses the spinal cord, a process called herniation. The resulting pressure on the spinal cord can result in clinical signs ranging from pain to complete loss of feeling and function of the limb.

Classically, there are two types of disc herniation: "disc extrusion" occurs when the nucleus pulposus explodes into the spinal canal and "disc bulging" is when the nucleus pulposus protrudes into the spinal canal. This latter type is the type commonly suffered by people.

Some dog breeds, particularly "dwarf" breeds with long bodies and short legs (such as Basset hounds, dachshunds, and Pekingese), are prone to disc extrusion as they experience a condition know as chondroid metaplasia, where the discs begin to deteriorate and calcify as early as one year of age. Large breed dogs (such as Labradors, German shepherds, and Doberman Pinschers) are more prone to disc protrusion, similar to what is seen in people.

The clinical signs stemming from the disc herniation depend upon the location of the injury; a disc injury in the lower back can cause problems only in the hind limbs, whereas an injury in the neck can cause dysfunction in all limbs. Dr. Dunning explains that with spinal injuries, neurological function is lost in a specific order, and the chance for recovery is greatly influenced by seeking prompt medical attention.

In the first stage an animal loses proprioception, or its ability to know where its limbs are. When this happens, an animal will display a "drunken" walk, known as ataxia. If the problem worsens, the animal will lose its ability to move its legs. In the last stage of paralysis an animal loses its ability to feel it legs. Paralysis can be progressive, going from bad to worse, so an animal displaying any of these signs should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

The treatment for disc herniation depends on the degree and duration of neurological dysfunction. For mild disc injuries with no loss of strength or voluntary movement, a veterinarian will prescribe rest and limited activity, just as a human doctor advises against heavy lifting or other activity that may stress the spine.

For animals that have not responded to conservative management or who have had multiple relapses of clinical signs of disc disease or have paresis or weakness of the limbs, surgery is a likely recommendation. Before surgery, diagnostic imaging such as an MRI, myelogram, or CT scan will be performed to confirm the cause and location of problem.

Decompression surgery can relieve pressure on the spinal cord caused by disc debris. The veterinarian creates a hemilaminectomy, similar to a surgical "sunroof," out of the bone overlying the spinal cord and removes the problematic disc material, relieving pressure on the spinal cord. Over 90 percent of dogs improve with this surgery, if medical attention is prompt and the degree of neurological impairment is not too severe. Both extrusion and bulge herniations can be treated with decompression surgery.

In lieu of or in addition to surgery, rehabilitation (known as physical therapy in human medicine) can be an essential part of spinal injury treatment. Rehabilitation can involve underwater treadmills and exercises designed to strengthen muscles and neurological function. The University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital is among the first institutions to implement veterinary rehabilitation.

Unfortunately, disc herniation is an injury that can happen repeatedly, in different vertebrae, especially in breeds that are predisposed. The most common sites for disc herniation are the lower back and neck areas, where the immobile rib cage joins areas of high movement, causing stress on those vertebrae.

Owners of dwarf-breed dogs or other dogs that are predisposed can minimize risk of disc injuries or avoid repeated episodes by keeping their dogs weight down. Excess body weight adds biomechanical load and stress on the discs. A lean, well-muscled, and fit dog is also better able to recover from injuries if they occur, so Dr. Dunning recommends daily moderate exercise.

Also, use a chest harness instead of attaching leashes to buckle collars that can pull suddenly on the neck. If possible, avoid sudden stops and starts that can stress the spine, such as launching off furniture. Training a small dog not to jump off furniture can curb risky habits.

"Most importantly," Dr. Dunning emphasizes, "owners should not feel guilty. Disc injuries are never really anyones fault but rather a function of how the animal is built."

Treatment Fixes Spinal Injuries in Dogs
Similar therapy a long way off for humans
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FRIDAY, Dec. 3 (HealthDayNews) -- A technique that helps heal spinal injuries in dogs may lead the way to future methods of preventing paralysis in humans who've suffered spinal damage.

Purdue University researchers found that injection of a liquid polymer called polyethylene glycol (PEG) within 72 hours of spinal injury prevented serious spinal cord damage in the majority of 19 dogs that received the injection.

"Nearly 75 percent of the dogs we treated with PEG were able to resume a normal life. Some healed so well that they could go on as if nothing happened," researcher Richard Borgens, director of the Center for Paralysis Research at Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

"In most dogs, we found a PEG injection within 36 hours can restore sensitivity and even mobility within three weeks. These results are unprecedented in paralysis research," Borgens said.

The findings appear in the December issue of the Journal of Neurotrauma.

The PEG solution prevents injured spinal cord nerve cells from irreversible rupturing. Stopping this process means the nerve cells can then heal themselves.

While this method seems effective in dogs, a similar treatment for humans is a long way off.

"There are significant differences between canine and human spinal cords that must be addressed before this treatment can be applied to people. In dogs, for example, some of the control of walking actually takes place in the spine, while in humans all of this control resides in our brains," Borgens said.

"Additionally, PEG cannot just be used off the shelf -- it must have a high level of purity for it to be effective. This is very promising research, but it won't be available in your hospital for some time," he said.

I found some information on spinal injuries and herniated disks for you that may be useful. Has your dog been x-rayed? That might rule out if it is a spinal injury or not also. It wouldn't hurt to try a little massage therapy considering it could be something as simple as a pulled muscle which is very uncomfortable and could effect his whole demeanor. I Hope I could help! They say swimming is kinda like therapy but if your dog is not used to swimming It could be very easy to strain muscles Kind of like humans when they work out if they are not used to it it hurts!

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