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Dr.Fiona, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 6273
Experience:  16 years experience as a companion animal veterinarian in British Columbia, California and Ontario
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My dog is not acting like himself today. He seems lethargic

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My dog is not acting like himself today. He seems lethargic and tentative. He's eating and drinking and he has not vomitted or had diarhea. But he just seems slow and apprehensive to move to much.
Submitted: 8 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 8 years ago.
Hi there,

Welcome to Just Answer! I would like to help you and your Beagle mix with this question, but need a bit more information in order to better assist you.

Is he able to go up and down stairs, or up/down on the couch?

Is he standing with his head and tail held low?

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
He is able to go up and down stairs; and he can jump up on the bed. His tail is not low, but he was holding his head lower than usual and walking around slowly. It's gotten a bit better as the morning has gone on. He usually catches a ball or a cube of ice when we through it to him, but now he flinches a bit and makes a sord of grunt noise when he goes to catch it.
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 8 years ago.

From what you are describing it sounds like your dog is experiencing neck pain. With neck pain, a dog guards his neck by keeping his chin down, and trying not to turn his head. He may hold up one paw, or really limp on it and this is called a "nerve root signature" which is essentially pain from a pinched nerve, and the pain shoots down the leg.

Neck pain could be from a tumble and roll outside, or from a slipped or herniated disc (IVDD, intervertebral disc disease). Either way, your boy should see a veterinarian as soon as possible!

IVDD happens when the material in the discs between the boney vertebrae in the back ruptures out and presses on the spinal cord. There is a lot of internal swelling when this occurs, leading to pain and decreased nerve function. This can happen in conjunction with arthritis of the vertebrae, because that causes decreased flexibility between the vertebrae.

Basically, the vertebrae are bones that protect the spinal cord which runs through a hole in the vertebrae. Each vertebrae has a little "shock absorber" between it and the next vertebrae, called a disc. The disc it a lot like a jelly donut! It has a fibrous part (the bread of the donut) and then a squishy substance in the middle (the jelly).

In SOME dogs, this jelly in the middle becomes chalky and hard as they age. Dachshunds are prone to this. So, when the back flexes and extends, instead of the jelly compressing and expanding, this chalky substance gets squeezed - and it does not compress, but instead it extrudes out and you thus get a herniated disc.

Treatment for IVDD often involves anti-inflammatories, pain killers and/or steroids. The goal is to decrease the swelling which in turn decreases the pain and improves nerve function. Sometimes, however, they are not enough and the dog becomes paralyzed. In these situations, surgery can be done to go in and remove the disc material that is pressing on the spine. This is called "decompression" surgery.

In order to determine what is appropriate treatment for your dog, a veterinarian needs to perform a very thorough neurological examination. The vet looks for neurological deficits such as a delay in turning the back foot over if it is turned so the top of the foot is on the ground instead of the pads, while the dog is in a standing position. The vet also looks for "purposeful movement" which is a stepping motion of the hind legs when the vet supports the dog’s weight so the legs can swing freely. There are a number of other neurological tests the vet does to test reflexes. Also, the vet manipulates each vertebrae in a way to find where there may be pain.
Here are some videos of a vet doing a neurological exam:

Here they are checking for PAIN and explain paralysis:

Often, if a painful area is located, the vet will recommend x-rays to look for a compression between the vertebrae. This confirms the diagnosis.    

The prognosis for each patient depends on the symptoms, the results of the neurological examination, how long the problem has been present, and how the dog responds to treatment.

I am concerned about your dog because it sounds like he is in pain.
I would strongly recommend a visit to your veterinarian as soon as possible so that he can be assessed and be treated.

Here are some links with more information:

Until you can get him to the vet, please keep him as quiet as possible, with just short visits outside to do potty business. Carry him up and down the stairs, as this is when the back flexes and extends the most, and further damage is most likely.

Do not put a collar around his neck, but instead use a harness around his chest if you need to restrain him, or make a noose by putting the end of this leash through the handle. Put this over his neck, but then put one front leg through the noose so that any pressure is across his chest and not on his neck.

In terms of whether to go see an emergency vet tonight or not, if it is absolutely impossible, then there are a couple of things you could try at home:

1. You may be able to give some aspirin (as long as he has no history of kidney or stomach problems and is not on other medications). Please use Buffered Aspirin if you have it, and give it with a piece of bread or something low-fat to eat, not on an empty stomach.

Here are links that tell you about it, with precautions and dose:


2. Also, many people with back and neck pain report that a warm compress is soothing, and your dog may appreciate that too. You can do this by making a wet towel compress. Place a small wet towel, folded into a zip-lok bag (unzipped!) and heat for about 2 minutes in the microwave. Remove and press all the air out. Make sure it is not too hot! You may want to put another towel around it, and then gently place over your dog's neck and upper back.

If your boy is not finding any relief with these measures, and is unable to settle down, you may need to see an emergency vet today. If, however, he does seem more comfortable, please do get him in to see his family veterinarian promptly tomorrow morning!

If this has been helpful, please accept my answer and leave feedback.

If you have more questions, just click on reply and I will still be here to provide more information if you need it!

The above is given for information only. Although I am a licensed veterinarian, I cannot legally prescribe medicines or diagnose your pet's condition without performing a physical exam. If you have concerns about your pet I would strongly advise contacting your regular veterinarian.


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