Lumbosacral Disc Disease in Dogs and How It Is Treated

What is Lumbosacral Disc Disease?

Lumbosacral disc disease is degeneration compression of the associated nerves of the lumbosacral joint. In humans, the lumbosacral joint is where we feel low back pain. In dogs, the lumbosacral junction is one of the highest-motion joints of the spine. It is also the connection between the highly mobile lumbar section of the spine and the sacrum, which is much more rigid. Because of this, any abnormal movement can cause instability and pain to your dog.

Also referred to as lower back Intervertebral Disc Disease or Lumbosacral IVDD, the symptoms of this condition can range from mild to severe.

Signs and Symptoms of Lumbosacral Disease in Dogs:

  • Back leg weakness
  • Limping or staggering when walking
  • Incontinence
  • Difficulty moving or jumping
  • Pain
  • Knuckling or dragging back paws
  • Unwillingness to be active
  • Tail is positioned downwards or hangs limply
  • Inability to move or feel hind legs

How Do I Tell if My Dog Has Lumbosacral Trauma?

Generally, Lumbosacral disc disease is caused by trauma. If your dog has fallen or landed strangely from a jump, you will want to monitor their spine and back to see if they are suffering from pain.

Gently, run your hands down their back, while applying a bit of pressure. If they yelp or move away from your hands, they are likely in pain and they need to be seen by your veterinarian.

Lumbosacral disc disease can also cause hind leg pain, leg weakness and the inability or unwillingness to wag their tails.

How to Treat Lumbosacral Disc Disease

  • Treating Lumbosacral Disc Disease starts with a trip to your veterinarian! Your vet will preform an MRI of your dog’s spine to see if there is trauma.
  • Depending on the severity of the spinal injury your vet may recommend surgery or treat it conservatively with physical therapy and crate rest.

Surgical Treatment

Decompressive Surgery (laminectomy)

If your pup is affected by extrusion or protrusion of the intervertebral disc with no evidence of instability or compression of the nerve roots, a procedure called surgical decompression by dorsal laminectomy can be performed. This surgeon will remove some of the bony casing of the spinal canal, allowing access to remove any bulging or ruptured intervertebral disc material that is causing your dog pain.

Lumbosacral Distraction Stabilization Surgery

This is a fairly new surgery where your dog’s surgeon will begin by stretching the lumbosacral joint by placing a custom-made titanium bolt between the vertebrae and securing it in place with either pins and bone cement or a pedicle screw system similar to the methods used in human spinal surgery, and this will allow addition security to the spine.

Conservative Treatment

Back support for dogs with bad backs

Typically, you will begin by keeping your dog on strict crate rest, only allowing them to go out for potty breaks. A back brace is a great tool to stabilize the spine while your dog is healing from spinal injury. The back brace will keep your dog’s spine aligned while they get up to use the bathroom.

Hydrotherapy is another great way to help your pup heal without surgery, the buoyancy of the water will take the pressure off of your dog’s spine and relieve your dog’s pain while they work on the muscles supporting the injured lumbar region.

Finally, laser therapy has been shown to help heal the muscles around the spinal trauma. The laser can reduce the pain your pup is feeling and has shown to reduce inflammation.

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