First things first: Regardless of your dog’s age, or the cause, this is a medical emergency.

The causes can range from infection, to trauma, to disc disease.

Important Note: In cases of disc disease, the longer your dog lays there, the more permanent the damage to the spinal cord may be. So, don’t wait.

If your dog’s breed is one that is predisposed to a slipped disc — Corgis, Basset Hounds, Dachshunds — time is of the essence. However, any breed can slip a disc – Terriers, Great Danes, and anything in between. If you suspect your dog has a slipped disc, properly called intervertebral disc disease, get to your veterinarian’s office.

The first priority is to reduce swelling in the spinal cord.

Medication is often used to reduce swelling, and sometimes surgery. In most cases, the most effective medication to reduce swelling is steroids. This recommendation is a source of controversy in the veterinary community. However, no other pain medication works as well, or as quickly, to remove swelling from the spinal cord. Most other medications treat pain but do not reduce spinal cord swelling.

The next goal is to restore mobility – To get Fido back to walking.

Next, the goal is to get your dog walking again. There are four primary methods used to restore movement: medication, surgery, acupuncture and rehab or fitness training. A 2007 study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reported that acupuncture works as well as surgery to restore movement in dogs suffering from disc disease. Another study, published in 2003 in the Journal of Veterinary Science, found steroids in combination with acupuncture returned dogs to walking faster and more reliably than dogs receiving only steroids, only acupuncture, or no treatment. Canine Fitness Training — something I’m certified as of January 2017 to offer — is a great way to facilitate better mobility once you have a diagnosis from your veterinarian. If you’d like to know more about this option, contact me or read this.

What this means for your dog

If your dog is suddenly down and can’t get up, suffering from a so-called ruptured disk, acupuncture and steroids is well indicated to treat your dog and get him or her back to walking. If your veterinarian does not offer these options, it simply means your veterinarian is not trained with this knowledge. Do a google search for one that is.

To recap: if suddenly your dog cannot walk, immediately seek veterinary help. Once the diagnosis is of disc disease is made, consider your options. Surgery can be painful and expensive and has no better outcome than acupuncture. If your veterinarian doesn’t offer these options, there are veterinary acupuncturists who can help if that is your selected treatment plan.

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