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Pinched Nerves


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How to spot the symptoms...

Agility dogs are usually quite athletic but can be prone to injury due to the extra stresses put on their bodies. The most common injuries are soft tissue sprains and strains but more serious ones like disc lesions that can lead to pinched nerves do occur. It is important to spot these early to prevent more significant damage. Chiropractor Petra Langen-Pieters explains how to tell if your dog has a pinched nerve.

A pinched spinal nerve is a painful and quite common situation dogs and humans. There are a variety of causes for this condition. Pressure on a nerve can be caused by a disc, bone, muscle or other soft tissue or even a tumour so diagnosis is not always straightforward.

Quick treatment is recommended to increase the quality-of-life of your pet, but luckily, the symptoms are readily apparent to an observant owner. An MRI is the preferred method of verifying this condition as an X-Ray may not show the cause or the extent of the injury or disease.

Changes in Movement
Dogs may exhibit symptoms such as a change in gait due to the pain. A dog may carry itself differently, favour a leg - especially a hind leg - and may exhibit limited range of motion in affected areas. Typically, dogs will become much less active and seem reluctant to play. Some dogs suffer intermittently from the condition and act normally on better days.

Other symptoms such as tingling or numbness can't really be seen but they may cause your dog to lick or even chew a leg or paw and can even result in a lick granuloma in some cases.

Dogs may also seem to lose coordination when suffering from a pinched spinal nerve. A dog may walk or lay down with its back arched or may carry its tail differently. Some dogs even walk on their knuckles when afflicted by this condition.

Pain Vocalizations and Distress
Dogs may begin to make pain vocalisation for no apparent reason -- there may be no wounds, insect stings or bites or other obvious injury. When in conjunction with changes in movement and behaviour, this may be one of the clearest signs of a pinched spinal nerve.

In addition, dogs may whine or otherwise communicate pain and distress when touched or moved. Typically, pinched nerves occur in the neck or lumbar region. Your dog may show pain reactions when pressure is applied there.

Behavioural Changes
Some dogs may exhibit acute behavioural changes when suffering from pinched spinal nerves. General weakness can be a sign of pinched spinal nerves, compression of the spinal cord or of a more serious medical condition. Some dogs will seem generally uncomfortable and will constantly fidget when at rest -- this will generally manifest as an inability to lie down or continually adjusting position. They might also become aggressive when suffering from acute pain and may growl or bite when handled.

Contributing Factors
Certain dogs are simply more susceptible to this condition, like obese dogs and dogs with particular physiologies, like being long and low to the ground (Dachshunds) or larger breeds like Rottweilers, German shepherds or Great Danes. Highly active dogs will also be more likely to suffer, while other dogs may have a familial history of this disease. Some diseases like cancer, a herniated disc, osteoporosis or Wobbler's Disease, that mainly affects large breeds, can contribute to pinched nerves in dogs.

Treatment
Mainstream veterinary medical treatment can include anti-inflammatory medications, pain relievers, muscle relaxants and, sometimes, tranquilizers to encourage rest. Cage rest may be prescribed for a period of time although this is obviously not great for the dog but rest is often crucial. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary. Both chiropractic and acupuncture can help and the best approach is a combination of treatment.

For more information contact: Petra Langen-Pieters BHSAI EBW DC - 07787 514271 or 01932 857782

About the author...
Petra Langen-Pieters BHSAI EBW DC has been a Doctor of Chiropractic for over 17 years and is Registered with the General Chiropractic Council. She has done postgraduate training in Animal Chiropractic in the USA, Germany and the UK and is certified by and registered with the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association. She has been treating animals for over 15 years.

She is based in Addlestone, Surrey but will travel to areas in Berkshire, Hampshire, Middlesex and West Sussex.

 First published 15th July 2019

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