It is important to recognize the signs of back pain in our furry friends because they cannot tell us if or where it hurts! Many dogs will become withdrawn when they are painful. Specific to back pain, you may notice reluctance to jump or be picked up, hiding, or loss of appetite. Some dogs will be more overt in their response to a painful back and may yelp, growl, or try to bite you when you pet them. You may also note muscle spasms (a tense back) or a hunched back appearance (known as kyphosis). In some cases, there can be signs of overt dysfunction such as weakness, stumbling, or even paralysis.
What is the difference between a veterinary neurologist and a veterinary neurosurgeon? Can someone be both? Just like in human medicine, veterinary medicine has specialists who focus on specific fields of treatment. There are veterinarians who primarily perform surgery and some who only see cancer patients.
I’m frequently asked this question from the owners of orthopedic patients. Generally, these pets don’t vocalize (i.e. whine, whimper, groan, cry out). Pain is shown in more subtle ways: panting, hiding, increased heart rate, dilated pupils, decreased appetite, difficulty sleeping, a lack of grooming, and purring or hissing for cats. I try to help clients empathize with their pet’s lameness. Limping on a limb is sign of pain. If the limb was normal and nonpainful, there would be no lameness or discomfort.