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My dog twisted her back.

Species: Dog
Breed: CockaPoo
Age: 2-5 years
Dear Dr. Marie,

Hope you are well. I was contacting you in hopes that you could help me with the following scenario. Trigger and I were playing fetch and as she was going for the ball, she twisted her back in a manner that i could tell was painful and she sat down and didn't want to play anymore. She seemed to be in pain and i noticed that the next day she was unable to stand on her hind legs to jump into the car or on the couch, or to greet me as she usually does. She was walking but her back leg a bit shaky and not very stable.

Your thoughts.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hi Bonnie. I'm sorry to hear that Trigger is not feeling well.

While I can't say for certain I am worried about the possibility of a back problem in Trigger. It is quite common for little dogs to injure their backs. There is a good possibility she has mild IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease).

The good news is that most dogs with mild IVDD will recover with some rest and antiinflammatory medication.

However, in some dogs, the disc can protrude and press up on the spinal cord and cause serious neurological problems such as paralysis. This is a serious emergency and usually requires surgery.

There are other possibilities as well such as a slight sprain or a strain in a muscle, a torn ligament in her knee or other things.

I'd highly recommend having your vet look at Trigger as soon as you can. The vet can determine if there is a serious problem or not and can also give safe and effective pain medication. There is no over the counter medicine that I would consider safe for her.

Until you get to her vet, keep her as quiet as possible. Don't allow her to do stairs or to jump at all.

I hope she is feeling better soon!

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thank you so much for your prompt response. What is the standard of care when presented with a back case such as this? I wanted to get a completely unbiased view on this matter and maybe you can help me.

Trigger is now fully paralyzed. Her vet did not tell me to restrict her movement after examining her (which i now know is the first thing to do with dogs and such an injury).. As a result, Trigger was paralyzed the day after the vet visit (so two days after the injury putting me at a disadvantage for a good prognosis because i did a lot of research and know that surgery is best when it's within 24 or is it 48 hours from initial injury, CORRECT??

I had no idea what signs to look for when i found her under my bed the next day with her lifeless legs. She had also urinated on herself. I still was not sure what was going on, i thought maybe it was a side effect of the steroid shots that the vet had given her. He never told me of any such possibilities such as IDD. Eventually i rushed her to the hospital and she underwent that expensive surgery that you were talking about. And let me tell you, that is not fun for a grad student with 100k in student loans. :)

Anyway, when researching IDD, i saw that the main symptoms to look for were lameness in legs, urination, etc. If i would have known to look for these Sx, i would have taken her in as soon as i saw any of them.

Could you please direct me to where i may find a similar case or any help regarding this matter. Being a parent to a disabled child (puppy) has changed my life fully. I love my puppy and decided to keep her, she is the happiest little thing and still always wants to play fetch. She is now in a wheelchair.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh no...I am so sorry to hear that you and Trigger have gone through this.

I've just spent some time researching for you on the latest ideas on surgery and IVDD. The "24 hour" figure comes from a study that suggests that if surgery is done within 24 hours of losing deep pain function (not initial injury) then there is a better chance for a dog to be able to walk again.

The way we test loss of deep pain function is by pinching firmly on the toes with a pair of hemostats (surgical instrument). If there is absolutely no reaction at all then there is no deep pain.

I have seen hundreds of dogs present with mild back problems. The first thing I will do in my exam is check for something called "proprioceptive deficits". To do this, I will knuckle the back legs so that the dog is standing on her toes. A normal dog will immediately put the foot back. If it stays in place this tells me that there is some neurological damage.

If I see this then I am very strict about keeping a dog rested. If there are no proprioceptive deficits but I am still suspecting a back problem I will say no jumping or stairs but I am not as strict. I do tell people though that if they notice knuckling or difficulty moving the back legs that they need to get back right away.

Here is some more information for you to read about IVDD.

Please let me know if you have more questions.

Dr. Marie.

Customer reply:

Thank you so much. Where can i find info stating that -not being able to stand on hind legs or jump up on a couch AND leg shaking/lower end shaking is related to neurological damage and Sx's of IDD. Because Trigger had certain symptoms before becoming fully paralyzed and losing deep pain sensation. Her lower end and leg were shaking and she didn't want to jump up on her back legs at all.

ALSO - I am in California, how can i listen to the radio show??

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

The symptoms of not being able to stand on the hind legs or jump up and shaking can sometimes mean something else such as a hip or pelvis problem or other things.

Do you remember if your vet did the propriopceptive placing test that I mentioned above? This is the test where they knuckle her feet over on to the top of the toes and then see if she can put them back again. This is something that would really alert us as to whether there was going to be a serious problem.

Regarding the radio show...I plan to make a page soon where you can download my shows. Here's a link to my most recent one:

Ask A Veterinarian radio show.

Customer reply:

Hi Dr. Marie,

Thank you for all your aid and advice. Trigger has been living with her wheelchair for a while now and she has adjusted beautifully. She is the happiest little thing and always wants to cuddle, play ball, or play tug of war with her rope. Adjusting to her paralysis was one of the hardest things i have dealt with but seeing her spirit made it all worth it. She does not have control of her bowels or urine and so i express her bladder daily and we have the bowel schedule down too. So there are no more messes like there were daily when this first happened. Clearly i didn't know how to care for her in the beginning and it was a learning process. I saw on your site that you are writing a book with stories of paralyzed dogs and why we should not put then down just bc they are paralyzed. I would love to tell my story. Do you have a paralyzed dog??

Also, I was hoping you could help me with something that actually happened a day or two ago. It's a much simpler case really. I am not exactly sure when this happened, and i will be taking her to the Dr. soon but i wanted your expertise since i am sure you have seen a case like this before and i have access to you at the moment.

Trigger's front paw definitely has some lameness to it and she puts very little weight on it. When she is laying down she keeps it curled mostly and i see it raising every so often. She definitely doesn't feel comfortable laying on the side that hurts. It looks like a sprain of sorts to me. She's young and so she still wants to fetch even though her paw hurts.

Your thoughts.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh, thank you for taking such good care of this little one. It's not easy helping a paralyzed dog.

I am indeed collecting stories of paralyzed dogs. I don't have one myself but I have heard so many wonderful stories of pets who live happily with paralysis. I'm still collecting stories until I have enough to publish. You can send me Trigger's story at the and I can include it in my book.

That's unfortunate that her front foot hurts. It would be impossible for me to be able to say why over the internet. I would be concerned that the changes in how she balances herself (i.e. with the wheelchair) could be affecting her joints and causing some pain.

But it could be a great number of things. Hopefully your vet can find you an answer and get her some medicine to help her out.

Customer reply:

If it was a sprain, how would that be treated? Would you keep her off of it as much as possible? Or is it ok for her to walk on it a little bit. I think what happened is she landed wrong when coming down from the couch.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Unfortunately I can't really advise you on this problem as there are so many variables. Generally, for a sprain we would reduce exercise and prescribe pain medication. But your vet will need to advise your further on this issue.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.