One of the most painful and frustrating diseases to treat in dogs is degenerative disc disease. This common condition can be seen in any breed, but is particularly common in long-backed breeds which tend to gain weight, such as Dachshunds, Beagles, and Bassett Hounds to name just a few.
In healthy dogs, the disc material between the spinal vertebrae acts like shock absorbers in allowing smooth movement of the body. A variety of reasons ranging from obesity, over vaccination, overuse of certain topical pesticides, and genetics, have all played a role in the degeneration and mineralization of this disc material, leading to protrusion of the disc material on the overlying spinal cord. This causes varying degrees of spinal cord compression, pain, inflammation, and gait abnormalities.
In the worse case scenario, complete paralysis of the limbs can occur, often requiring immediate emergency surgery. In other more common cases, disc diseases will flare-up periodically with an unpredictable severity and course. Many dogs are in such pain that we are left prescribing either nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like Rimadyl, Previcox, Deramaxx, or even stronger cortisone type drugs. Muscle relaxants like Methocarbamol, as well as mild narcotic derivatives such as Tramadol are also often prescribed.
It should be known, however, that none of these drugs are long term solutions for dogs because in some instances the pain returns with often worsening symptoms. That’s why there is no condition that is crying out more for complimentary or holistic veterinary medical options than dogs with chronic back or disc problems. Modalities like chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy and physical therapy can all potentially help those cases where drugs alone have failed.
In situations where your only conventional medical option is a $10,000 dollar surgery, I would always try other holistic modalities first, unless surgery is absolutely necessary or your pet is in a paralysis crisis. Nutritional supplements, including Omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants like Proanthozone, as well as Yucca Intensive can also ease discomfort in some patients and be safely used long term. To locate a veterinarian skilled in these modalities see www.AHVMA.org or www.theAVH.org
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