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Beagle with neck pain.

Species: Dog
Breed: Beagle
Age: 8-11 years
I have an 8-yr. old (9 in March) female beagle. Almost a month ago, one morning she didn't want to get up and go outside to do her business as usual, and showed no indication of wanting to move off of the bed. I could tell something was definitely wrong with her so I called my vet, and even though it was Saturday, he was still open and able to get me in.

Picking her up to put her in the car caused her to yell in pain. Got her to the vet's office, they examined her, and all vitals were normal. Told them what was going on with her and they decided to do an x-ray of her. When the vet tech picked her up to take her to the x-ray, Noelle screamed bloody murder because of the pain.

Didn't do a myelogram, just regular x-ray. Vet's diagnosis was that she had a couple of calcified cervical discs, which he explained is common in beagles, and other dwarf breeds. In the office that day her gave her 2 injections - one of morphine and one of midazolam, and filled prescriptions for dexamethasone and tramadol.

Went back for follow up about 10 days later and really didn't see much improvement. The Dr. was surprised that the steroid didn't help more (he only had her on it for 7 days). Told that we should give it some more time, and he filled additional prescriptions for alprazolam and previcox. Vet said let's give it a little time and see if she gets better. If not, he would recommend a specialist, and they might want to do an MRI. After taking the first Previcox, she seemed to be much improved over her prior state. It allowed her to be much more active, but I'm trying to curtail that. Noelle has always been allowed on the furniture and said that jumping down from the couch could have caused this sudden onset of severe pain, although the condition likely had started much earlier. It's very hard to untrain a dog from getting on furniture who has always been allowed to before, but I am working on that.

Noelle is still in pain occasionally, in spite of all the meds she's on. Especially when she tries to bark - it often starts out as a bark, but then turns into a scream. I hate to see my little girl in such pain and am wondering what the long-term prognosis is for dogs with calcified cervical discs. Will she get better with time and the meds, or is surgery an option? Is there anything that can dissolve the calcification?

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh, I am sorry to hear of Noelle's back problems. Beagles can indeed be prone to this type of problem and they usually do not handle it well at all. I have heard many beagles do the type of scream that you are talking about.

If you have seen some improvement with medication then there is a good chance that she will continue to improve. Most cases that I have like this show close to 100% improvement within 3-4 weeks. Some of these dogs will have occasional relapses, but others never have another episode.

The main concern is whether there is calcified material that is bulging out of a disc and pressing on the spinal cord. If this is the case then surgery is necessary. However, usually surgical cases have more symptoms than you have described. They will usually have evidence of nerve damage such as knuckling and dragging of the back legs. It doesn't sound like this is happening with Noelle. The only way to be certain whether this is a surgical problem is indeed to have an MRI or myelogram. Both of these tests are quite expensive and not readily available in a regular practice.

There is another condition that you can talk to your vet about called "Beagle Pain Syndrome" where beagles can get very severe back or neck pain. However, this would not cause the changes on xray that your vet is seeing. If the symptoms continue though, it's worth asking your vet if this could be a possibility.

It does sound like your vet is doing the same things that I would do. At this point I think time, rest and patience are the best tools that we have.

I hope things improve 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.

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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.