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Lumbo-Sacral Disease

By: Dr. Nicholas Trout

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Treatment for lumbo-sacral disease can be either medical or surgical and depends on the severity of the disease.

Medical management may be most helpful where the compression occurs secondary to infection and may include:

  • Rest, anti-inflammatory medication and antibiotics
  • Strict confinement
  • Surgery, especially if medical management is not effective or the problem is severe

    Surgical treatment may be recommended after spinal X-rays, a myelogram, epidurogram, CT or MRI. A fracture or dislocation usually needs to be stabilized with surgery. Other surgical treatments may include:

  • In cases of congenital bony compression, disc compression, ligament compression or pressure from a growing tumor, a window is usually created in the bone to allow freedom of the nerve roots.

  • When possible, removal of the source of the compression may be necessary.

    Home Care and Prevention

    Regardless of whether your dog has medical or surgical management of the problem, an initial period of rest and restriction is usually important. Your dog may require assistance to get up, to go outside, or even to urinate. Your veterinarian will usually demonstrate supportive care and physiotherapy techniques when necessary. Follow your veterinarians recommendations carefully to avoid exacerbating the condition.

    Excessive weight gain may predispose some dogs to increased stress upon their lower spine. Therefore, do not allow your dog to become overweight.

    Most spinal fractures and spinal dislocations are caused when dogs are hit by cars. Common sense and judicious use of a leash should help prevent this occurrence.

    The remaining causes of lumbo-sacral disease, for the most part, cannot be prevented. Certain activities such as jumping and twisting to catch a flying disk might tend to jar or twist the lower spine. However, there are no specific long-term recommendations to prevent lumbo-sacral nerve root compression.

    It is important that you recognize hind limb weakness or back pain early. Once the disease has progressed to the point where urinary function is affected (urinary incontinence or urine dribbling) the prognosis for recovery is worse than if it is caught and treated earlier, before these signs develop. Early evaluation by your veterinarian for suspected lower back pain, clumsiness, reluctance to go up or down stairs or similar limitations is strongly recommended.

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