Your pup is your best friend and a vital part of the family, so when they’re suffering from illness or pain, it can be heartbreaking to watch. As a pet-parent, all you’ll want is to make sure your fur-baby is as happy and healthy as possible, so you’re going to need to know the symptoms and treatment options available should your pup develop any back problems.
But it’s not enough just to be prepared to deal with back problems in dogs, and prevention is always better than cure.
Symptoms of back pain in small dogs
Sadly, back problems and pain are common occurrences in the life of our favorite furry companions and can affect almost any breed at any time.
But although your dog might not be able to explain in words how and where their back hurts, there are some signs you can look out for that might let you know your pup is in pain:
— Crying or yelling when you touch the neck or spine
— Unable or unwilling to move their head (even for treats)
— Signs of weakness or lethargy
— Changes in posture or gait
— Visible trauma to the spine (for example, bruising or swelling)
— Unusual spine position
If your pup appears to be in pain, get them to a vet as soon as possible.
1. Monitor weight
One of the most frequent causes of canine back pain is obesity. But even if your pup isn’t technically obese, even a little extra weight could put undue pressure on your dog’s spine.
You can check if your pet is overweight by feeling around their ribs and spine. These bones should only be separated from the skin by a thin layer of fat, so if you can’t find the ribcage, it might be time to put your doggy on a diet!
2. Get the right amount of exercise
Plenty of exercise is the key to a happy and healthy canine and is great for us humans too! Not only does it provide a brilliant bonding experience, but keeping your pup active can also reduce behavioral problems.
However, if your pup is showing any back pain symptoms, it might be time to look at your exercise routine. Shorter leash walks with less running or leaping can help reduce the pressure on your dog’s back while still allowing them the chance to stretch and move.
3. Look out for slippery floors
If your pup is suffering from back pain, walking can quickly become challenging, particularly if the dog is getting on in years. If your home is full of slippery surfaces such as tile, linoleum, or hardwood floors, putting down rubber mats or carpets can make life much easier for your pet as they can walk around safely.
4. Limit jumping and stairs
Although an excitable puppy is a joy to behold, all that jumping can cause a lot of strain on your dog’s back. The impact as they return to the ground can cause problems, and the very process of gearing their body up for a leap can be strenuous, particularly if your pup is already suffering from back pain.
If you like to have your dog curled up close to you, then you might want to consider a dog ramp (like this one from Chasing Tails) to help them transition from the floor to the furniture a bit more easily.
Stairs can also be difficult for pups with back problems, so limiting their need to go up/downstairs when possible is best.
5. Use a harness
Walking your dog with a traditional leash and collar might seem like the easiest option, but the pressure put on the dog’s neck can cause injury even if you’re being careful. A harness can be an excellent solution to this problem by distributing any pressure more evenly. Some harnesses even incorporate handles by the hindquarters for extra support.
6. Lift your dog correctly
Whether you’re lifting your small dog to help them in/out of the car or simply can’t resist a cuddle, holding and carrying your dog can actually benefit the pup. As long as you’re doing it correctly.
Lifting your dog wrong can damage their back, spine, and vertebrae, not to mention it isn’t very comfortable for you or your pet! The correct way to pick up a small dog is to support them with both hands, placing one under the ribcage and the other beneath the back legs, ensuring the spine is as straight as possible.
7. Consider pain medication or treatments
If your pup is in pain, it’s always worth taking a trip to your veterinarian to discuss the right treatments and medication. This could be as simple as a veterinary-recommended diet or medication course to help relieve the pain.
Alternative therapies can also be beneficial when treating back pain in dogs, so you might also want to discuss options such as acupuncture, hot and cold therapy, or physical therapy for your pup.