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Treatments of Herniated discs in dogs at the ABVET specialist clinic

Spine model with herniated disc (arrow)

The intervertebral disc is a cushioning structure between 2 vertebrae (photo) whose purpose is to protect the spinal cord from shocks. The disc can degenerate and its contents can be extruded (herniated) and cause compression of the spinal cord with subsequent paralysis. Herniated discs are the most common cause of paralysis in dogs. This disease is common in breeds that are predisposed to it such as Dachshunds, Beagles, French Bulldogs and German Shepherds. The 2 most common locations are either dorsolumbar or cervical (neck).

How can I tell if my dog has a herniated disc?

When the intervertebral disc tears, the spinal cord is compressed by the herniated disc, the animal presents either signs of discomfort or very great pain or a paralysis of more or less rapid onset. If the spinal cord is only slightly compressed, the animal will only have difficulty moving around with a stooped back; if the spinal cord is very compressed, paralysis will occur. This paralysis may involve only the hind limbs when the herniation is dorsolumbar or all four limbs when the herniation is cervical.

CT scan of a herniated disc

Cervical disc herniation

Patients usually have a history of pain behavior characterized by screaming for no apparent reason. Less commonly, they have a limp in the forelimb. Cervical pain is triggered when the dog moves or is touched. It will show a tense neck, weakness of the limbs and an uncoordinated gait.

Dorsolumbar disc herniation

Patients may present with acute or progressive weakness of the hind limbs. The severity of symptoms varies from mild paresis (weakness) to complete paralysis with an inability to feel pain in the affected limbs.

How do you identify and locate a herniated disc?

The diagnosis of a herniated disc is based on a neurological examination performed by us and additional tests done before the operation under general anesthesia. X-rays do not allow the precise location of herniated discs The CT scan is the basic diagnostic tool that allows the location and characterization of most herniated discs. A myeloscanner is occasionally indicated in the absence of a herniated disc visualized on the scanner Not all paralyzed animals suffer from a herniated disc. In the absence of an obvious disc herniation on the CT scan or myeloscanner, further investigations are performed.

View of the herniated disc compressing the spinal cord

What are the treatments for herniated discs?

Treatment varies with the severity of the symptoms. Medical treatment is reserved for dogs with moderate signs. Cervical disc herniation, even if the symptoms are mild, is considered a true surgical emergency. Surgery is indicated for all dogs that have not responded to medical treatment and for those with more severe symptoms.

The most common surgery called hemilaminectomy involves making an access window on the spinal cord and extracting the herniated disc under an operating microscope to avoid trauma. The action of your veterinary surgeon in Neuilly-sur-Seine near Paris, allows to eliminate the compression of the spinal cord, to relieve the pain and to maximize the chances for the recovery of the patients.

Frequently asked questions about herniated discs in dogs.

What is the success rate of these surgeries?

The prognosis after surgical treatment of a herniated disc depends on the severity of the patient's neurological condition and the speed of the procedure. Ambulatory or paretic patients almost always recover within a few days of surgery. Patients who are totally paralyzed but have deep tenderness have a very good chance of recovery with surgery, performed in our veterinary clinic ABVET in Neuilly-sur-Sein. Most dogs show dramatic improvement within days of the procedure. Dogs that are both paralyzed and cannot feel their limbs have a poorer prognosis. For these more severe cases, we now use stem cells applied locally on a resorbable support which improves the prognosis.

How long will my dog be in hospital after surgery?

The length of stay is based on post-operative comfort, your pet's neurological condition and your wishes.

Is a check-up necessary?

Yes, assessing the neurological progress of a herniated disc patient is an important part of the overall treatment plan. Most patients are reassessed 2 and 4 weeks after surgery.

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