"Pinched or trapped nerves in the neck of the dog
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"Pinched or trapped nerves in the neck of the dog

Dogs
Health & Safety

Within the spine of every dog are several small, overlapping bones called vertebrae, which permit the neck and back of the dog to move freely and remain flexible. Between each vertebrae are discs called intervertebral discs, which protect the vertebrae from rubbing together, and cushion and protect the spinal cord.

Dogs have seven vertebrae in the area around the neck, and the intervertebral discs of the neck begin between the second and third of these, and continue down the back. The neck vertebrae are of course important for supporting the head and spine, allowing the head to turn and rotate, lift and lower, and otherwise move in the normal way.

When your dog’s vertebrae are working correctly and are healthy, their heads and necks are able to move freely, within normal parameters. However, if one of the vertebrae of the neck begin to place pressure on the root of the nerves within them that lead to the spinal cord, they can become compressed, leading to a condition that we call a pinched or trapped nerve in the neck.

This can happen because of a breed conformation predisposition to problems, as can occur in the Dachshund, or for various other reasons including injuries, age-related degeneration, weight problems, too much yanking on the lead, and various other causes. In this article, we will look at trapped or pinched nerves in the neck of the dog in more detail, including the symptoms and treatment options available. Read on to learn more.

The symptoms of trapped nerves in the neck

When the vertebrae end up trapping or pinching the nerve endings of the neck, you will see a range of symptoms in your dog that can vary depending on how bad the problem is. Trapped nerves in the neck can be both very limiting and potentially very painful, and so it is important that you contact your vet ASAP if you witness a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Pain, which can manifest in a variety of ways including yelping or crying, showing signs of discomfort, and being restless or unsettled.
  • A dog with a trapped nerve in the neck is likely to suffer from a stiff neck too, so if your dog appears to be lacking their full range of normal movement or shows signs of muscle tension or tremors in the neck, this is another warning sign.
  • Trapped nerves in the neck can also become obvious when walking or exercising your dog, which may display as slow walking with the head hanging, a loss of coordination, or stumbling or weaving when walking.
  • Paralysis may occur in severe cases, and significant damage to the nerves can lead to paralysis of the neck and the areas below it, limiting or stopping movement.

Can the condition be treated?

Your first port of call if you spot any of the above problems is to see your vet as soon as possible, as the earlier that they intervene, the better the chances will be of your dog making a full recovery.

First of all your vet will run a physical exam on your dog and ask you about the symptoms you have spotted, and if there are any contributing factors that may have led to the problem.

Your vet may also run x-rays to diagnose or rule out the condition, although these are not always indicated, as trapped nerves do not show up particularly well on x-rays. A myelogram with contrast dye usually proves more effective.

Once your vet has reached a definitive diagnosis, they will likely prescribe muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatories and pain killers for your dog. It is also possible at this stage that your vet will offer to run a blood panel on your dog too, which you should agree to if possible. This can help to show up any potential kidney or liver problems, which can be affected by the medications prescribed, particularly if they are needed long term.

Care at home

Once your dog is diagnosed and treatment has begun, how you care for them at home, including monitoring for side-effects of their medications is important. Anti-inflammatory medications can lead to vomiting and diarrhoea, and the possibility of blood in the stools, as well as decreased appetite. Let your vet know if your dog displays any of these symptoms.

Your dog will need plenty of rest and to be discouraged from any exertion while they recover, in order to allow the damage time to heal and return to normal. This means that their walks must be kept short and gentle, just allowing them the chance to do their business. Running around, jumping, and high impact activity should be prevented.

When you do walk your dog, you will need to use a harness instead of a collar, to prevent placing any additional pressure on the neck. It is important too to minimise pressure on the lead, to avoid worsening the problem. You may wish to continue to use a harness instead of a collar after your dog has recovered too.

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