Treatment Options for Canine Degenerative Disc Disease

Dachshunds are among several dog breeds that are prone to degenerative disc disease.

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 or

Related Posts


  1. Poor pups they end up gettting the same conditions us humans get. As with humans we should try to find natural alternatives since NSAIDS only make matters worse as stated in this post. A healther option would be omega-3 with an antioxidant combination such as moxxor which are antiinflammatory and do not have the horrible side effects NSAIDS have ie leaky gut, hearing loss, ulcers and worsening deterioration of the joints.
    Susana RN

  2. Moxxor is a MLM scheme. It’s unfortunate that people looking for ways to help their pet have to sift through this type of garbage from bottom feeders like yourself look to make a buck.. From my research, anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) can be very helpful in relieving stress on the spine and as a short term treatment, prevent further stress/damage to the spine. Omega-3 is a supplement and not a replacement. I hope people reading this will take guidance from their trained VET and not scum on the internet trying to send you to their MLM link. Here is my link:

  3. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianAugust 14, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    Omega 3s can certainly be helpful especially when used early. However the record of most conventional drugs including NSAIDs and even cortisone is very poor in treating severe disc disease, which is why I always make a case for alternative medical options such as chiropractic as well as acupuncture

  4. Pingback: Looking for Effective Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment – Find a Chiropractor | My Blog

  5. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianNovember 18, 2013 at 2:11 am

    I personally find holistic approaches to back and disc problems in animals truly more rewarding and helpful long term in patients with chronic back issues. From nutritional supplements, acupuncture, chiropractic and homeopathy, I find these are more gentle and improve spinal health over time compared to suppressive drugs, and/or back surgery.

  6. I have a 6 year old havanese, he does have degenerative disc disease, he has already had surgery once for a ruptured disc in his neck. He recently had a bad disc in his lumbar region. The vet put him in steroids and Tramadol. He seems alright at this moment. I was just wondering if there are any supplements that can prevent him from having more issues.

  7. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJanuary 27, 2014 at 12:48 am

    Try ligaplex II from standard process which you can get from Also consider antioxidants proanthozone and yucca intensive from 1800petmeds.

  8. My mother’s boston terrier -Oreo- is about 13 yrs old. He is 22.5lbs. He all the sudden last week began holding his front legs totally stiff and the was having trouble sitting. Then I took him to the vet when he wasn’t getting better. In fact id noticed his back legs seeming to cross almost when he walked. Upon turning his back paws upside down and Oreo having a very hard time trying to return them back the correct way, the vet decided it seemed like spinal injury. Also at the touch of his mid/lower back, Oreo yelped. We decided to x-ray his back. She came back to say 2 issues. First, he definitely has spondylosis -which may explain SOME pain. Second, he has definitely injured his back in the same area. She said definite swelling but not broken. We thought it was possible he slipped in the ice storm we had last week. So sent me with rx for prednisone 10mg bid x 7 days then taper. And tramadol 50mg half tab q12 for pain. Well I took him home and realized when I got him out of the car and I already knew his injury was why he wasnt leaning his head down and his stiff front legs. Well about 2 hours later I came to where he was laying to give him his meds and he couldnt stand up. I thought he was struggling from being in pain but quickly realized he could move his back legs. Period. Instantly nothing. Couldnt sit because he fell over. ..impossible to stand. Front legs stiff as wood. So after reading tons of articles online it seemed possible this could happen and gradually improve with rest and prednisone. Wondering if this seems normal at all. Took him to vet wed and today is now sun. A coworker of mine had similar issue with her dog that she says resolved after about a month. Oreo is eating drinking with assistance. Prednisone seems to have him urinating ALOT so because he isnt able to get up, we have doggy diapered him. It seems he def has spasms from possible pinched nerve or just from pain alone. And he urinates everytime. Could this be from prednisone or from injury? Also my mother is devastated and terrified we are losing him while I , from a pharmacy tech let-the-drugs-work point of view think time will tell whether he regains use if back legs again. Any ideas? Also, could prednisone dose be too high? Would a follow up vet visit be too soon? Is the hope time will tell too far fetched? And, is a whole tramadol safe for him at night…so he can rest? Thanks for your time. I appreciate it tremendously!

  9. Sorry what I meant was when I took him his meds the same day as vet visit, all the sudden he COULDNT move his back legs. Seemed totally paralyzed. Didnt react when I touched paws and no resistance when tried to move legs. Nothing.

  10. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianFebruary 9, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    Does not sound like prednisone dose too high. Injury and/or pred can cause excessive urination. Can take up to several weeks for symptoms to improve with rest and steroids, etc. Also I would ask vet to have him on antibiotic as likely has secondary bacterial infection of bladder, which is common in disc dogs on prednisone. A whole tramadol is fine at night, as this is very safe drug. Also ask your vet about other pain meds like gabapentin and/or amantadine, which may help. I also LOVE holistic medicine in case like this, especially chiropractic and/or acupuncture which can make difference in outcome of these cases. Find vet in your area who offers these holistic complimentary options

  11. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianFebruary 9, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    Your vet needs to assess dog for deep pain, as if that is not present, than surgery is sometimes only option

  12. Thank you very much! We already ♡ dog massage. We will give it a try! Anything to help Oreo relax and be a little closer to feeling better each day. I appreciate the advice and thank you for your time!

  13. A dog came to my house and had extremely matted fur and was holding one foot up, so I took him to a groomer she got all the fur off and said he need medical attention for that leg. I left him over night with her on Saturday and picked him up Sunday and he just seemed different and had a distant stare, the groomer said it was because she gave him a pain med for his leg, so I take him to my vet on Monday and I noticed him knuckling up trying to walk and I told the vet he said it was neurological and started him on a steroids, two days later he is worse so we do blood work it comes back ok just anemia and dehydrated and we already knew his leg was going to have to be amputated because the fur grew tight around the foot and killed it, but the was no infection. So we thought he had a stroke. We started treating him for that but he doesn’t respond to any meds we give and his whole body is stiff. His calcium is good and it’s not tetanus. He has been at my vets for alittle over a week now and is still not eating but we are doing IV’s, we gave him Valium on Saturday and it did loosen his muscles some and he ate a couple bites, but really there hasn’t been much change in him. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

  14. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianApril 2, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Sounds like a good case for holistic medicine, as if steroids not doing trick, then we usually out of option traditionally. Consider working with vet homeopath To find one in your area, go to as well as you could also try acupuncture and/or chiropractic

  15. Thanks! Now we know it’s tetanus! At first my vet didn’t think it was cause his white blood cell count wasn’t up, so there was no infection, but now everything is leading to tetanus, and I have been learning that it’s not common in dogs more so in horses. We started him on the penicillin IV’s yesterday and already today his muscles are not as stiff and his legs and joints can be moved easier. So I’m hoping this will work! We also have him on Valium and steroids. Have you ever treated dogs for tetanus? If so any thought or advice you could share would be great!

  16. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianApril 4, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    Sounds like you are using the right traditional medications. You could also consider the homeopathic remedy Ledum in 30c potency, which is great for tetanus. Give 1 pellet twice daily for 3 to 4 days.

  17. Hello
    My mini dashhound has hip dysplasia.she walks on all four legs however when she runs she runs on three legs. I wonder what homeo pathic treatment might be available. My vet said she is not a candidate for surgery at this time because she is handling herself fine.

  18. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianMarch 18, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    You could try supplements like glycoflex III, proanthozone and Yucca intensive from 1800petmeds. Also tumeric at dose of 10 mg per pound twice daily, in addition to zeel product.

  19. Hello, Ive been reading all your comments, old and new and I just can’t seem to find the response Im looking for. Our 3 year old dash hound seemed to be in pain 3 days ago. Last night we decided to take him in to the vet. He got X-rays and came back that he has degenerative disc disease. He got medication just as everyone has said. tramadol, a muscle relaxant and diazepam. We would so love it if he got 100% better, but after researching it seems it’ll be a problem for as long as he lives. Well we gave him the meds last night and this morning we carried him out to potty and he tried to take a step and he just fell on his butt. We picked him up and brought him to his water and food bowl and he just dropped again and scooted himself back with his front legs. In other words dragged himself. Could he go paralyzed so fast? Or is it the meds that have him super weak? Yet he is able to hold himself up, just not move his back legs. We are all devastated to include our kids. We fear the only option would be to put him to sleep. There is no way we can afford a $3,000 surgery. Any hopeful words out there?

  20. Try Lil Back Bracer. My Pekingese has been diagnosed with DDD and was falling all the time. I got her the back brace and now she doesn’t fall. I know it won’t cure her, but it certainly has helped.

  21. Vanessa,
    The muscle relaxant very likely causing your dog to lose balance and fall. That is what it does to our dog.

  22. Muscle relaxants may on occasion cause weakness and wobbliness in a dog

  23. My dog just had surgery for degenerative disc disease. She’s 3 years old, 17 pounds. It’s very scary. Doc said things are looking good. Doc want to leave her at the vet for 7 days but I cannot afford that will it be bad if I bring her home on the 3-4 day? Help. Please.

  24. I personally dont think it is usually a problem to bring her home after a few days, as long as you keep her confined and/or in crate or cage, which would be same thing done at an animal hospital. Dont see why you cant administer post op pain meds, etc at home; I have had plenty of patients over the years who go home within a few days of disc surgery. Best to check with your vet to find out. Moving forward, I would also consider acupuncture and/or chiropractic when recuperated in a few weeks as that can help strengthen the spine, etc and hopefully prevent future relapses at other disc spaces

  25. I hope someone can help me. I have an 11 year old pug named Harris. We have known for a while that he had hip/back leg issues because he sways when he walks. But lately he has been dragging his back legs and has trouble walking. He scoots to get up and I can see him straining to get up. He doesn’t seem to be in pain, his appetite is fine and he’s in good spirits but I’m really worried. I’m on a limited income and could never afford surgery for him. I’m just praying that it’s not anything serious.


  26. HI Claudia. So sorry to hear of Harris’ problems. There are indeed lots of nonprescription excellent supplements that you can get from this website that may help with his quality of life and any role that degenerative joint disease or arthritis may play here. You could start with Super joint enhancer, proanthozone, Nordic naturals pet omega 3, as well as Yucca intensive all from 1800petmeds that may help with joint issues by working together and on many levels. You can also consider holistic support if spinal issues involved such as chiropractic or acupuncture, without needing surgery. See the website for list of holistic trained vets in your area. A simple visit to your local traditional veterinarian and exam, etc also will give you access to many potential prescription pain medications and anti inflammatories, such as nonsteroidal anti inflammatory meds, as well as other prescription drugs like Gabapentin and tramadol, which are not that expensive. Good luck with this

  27. Hello my Diamond was having problems going up the steps every now and then, until last night her hind legs and front left leg just collapsed. She is a lab and basset hound mix, 12 years old will be 13 June 24, 2017. I’m floorEd that all of a sudden her legs collapsed any advice for my baby would be great

  28. So sorry to hear of your dog’s issues. Many possibilities from a worsening compressed disc in spinal cord to more serious issue of spinal cord, including a blood clot originating from the spinal cord, etc. Best to see vet ASAP for workup

  29. Hi Michael, my 3 year old Chihuahua was just diagnosed yesterday with intervertebral disk disease yesterday when I saw the night before that he was dragging his back leg out of nowhere. He is on the pain meds and anti-inflammatory meds and is on very strict cage rest for the next 3-4 weeks. I am so upset about this. What are the chances of him pulling through? I could never afford a $10,000 surgery.

  30. Hi Becky. I would follow your vet’s directions on medications and rest for the disc condition. I find that a combination approach works best with meds like low dose prednisone, and other pain meds that work differently on the spine such as tramadol or gabapentin. Ask your vet which is most appropriate. I also find that holistic measures including chiropractic and/or acupuncture also can help many cases and may avoid surgery.

  31. Dr. Dym, I am wondering if you can give me some information. I have a large breed cane corso mastiff with multiple back disk problems diagnosed with an MRI. She is being treated holistically by a very well know vet and I take her for acupuncture with the tens unit and injections of traumeel and B12. She seemed to rebound miraculously from the first treatment with the tens and the traumeel injections but now seems to be regressing again. Do you know the pain medication that begins with the letter A that they recommend for a pain now in dogs? I hate to give her anything because her liver enzymes are elevated way too high, but on bad days I’d like to have something on hand for her. Thank you.

  32. Hi Anne. I believe you are talking about the drug Amantadine, which is a human drug that has been used by some veterinary neurologists for back pain, but I have limited experience in its use, so I would have to check with your local vet. I would not, however continue to give combination homeopathic traumeel injections, as in my experience as a classically trained homeopath, using combination remedies like this, especially in injection form eventually fails, as homeopathy was not intended to be used like that long term, in spite of many of my holistic, eclectic veterinary colleagues who choose to use remedies in that fashion. Most of them have little training on how homeopathic remedies truly work in the body

  33. Hi ! Would Ligaflex be good for my shitzu Tem who is diagnosed with DDD. He is 13 on NSAID S for 30 days and a liquid anti inflamtory.
    His neck disk shows not much space in the x-ray but all other tests are good and healthy .He collapsed with poor back legs last week and that’s why he’s in cage rest too for a month.
    But I want to go alternative after all the drugs. Please recommend doing a maintenance regime to prevent any more damage?
    Many thanks😂

  34. Hi there! Would Ligaflex be good for my shitzu Tem who is diagnosed with DDD. He is 13 on NSAID S for 30 days and a liquid anti inflamtory.
    His neck disk shows not much space in the x-ray but all other tests are good and healthy .He collapsed with poor back legs last week and that’s why he’s in cage rest too for a month.
    But I want to go alternative after all the drugs. Please recommend doing a maintenance regime to prevent any more damage?
    Many thanks😂

  35. Ligaplex is a great product from STandard process for support of spinal health. There may be other more individualized, holistic support that can be prescribed based on her individual history, etc. Consider consulting with holistic vet. Many do offer phone consultations nationwide. To learn more, see

  36. Seven weeks ago my Doberman suddenly lost his ability to walk. Paralyzed in his hind legs. One year ago I was told he had a partially torn Achilles’ tendon causing tenderness in one paw. I feel like it was his back all along. We did blood infusions, custom splint and rehab twice a week for 6weeks, an hour away. I loved my boy and always wanted and gave him the best life had to offer. Six weeks ago I was told he had Degenerative Disc Disease and surgery was an option. I decided to not do surgery, to let him go. I have cried everyday since. I am crying now! After reading all of these cries for help and realizing not only what your pets are going through but you as well I am finally at peace with my decision to not put my beloved pet through the insanity of pain and helplessness. It’s okay…..

  37. I am indeed sorry for your loss. It does sound like you have done everything possible for your sweet Doberman companion and certainly treated many of his challenges appropriately. Sometimes case outcomes are indeed our of human hands.

  38. Hi Michael,
    My name is Karen Durrett. My dog was a 10 yrs old ChiuaHua mix with Daschound we believe. He has had a disc problem on an off for years as well as a weight problem. At first the Vet put him on Metacam, and that seemed to work fine. We lived in Vegas for 10 years, which is where we adopted Paco. When we moved to Florida, I noticed that he would lift his back leg, after coming from outside. Long story short, I came home one day and he could barely walk. . His head was down and he was wobbly. I took him to the vet. They did blood work, xrays. I figured it was a disc problem. The Vet put him on Diazapam, tramadol, and metacacabon, . He got worse, started yelping in pain, it was his neck, not his back. Long story short, I took him to another vet, put him on Metacam, he had it before, seemed fine and got worse again. The only option was surgery. I couldn’t afford it and I couldn’t stand to see my dog in pain. He started hiding in corners, and wouldn’t sleep . We chose to put him down and that was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life! My heart aches. Sorry for being long winded. Thank you

  39. Hi Karen. So sorry to hear of your recent loss. Sounds like you and the vets did everything possible within reason for your canine companion. In these severe cases like you describe, I do find that the old standby prednisone gives these little guys with severe back pain and disc issues the best chance at remission, especially the doxie crosses, if surgery not an option. Usually metacam not nearly strong enough. I also find holistic measures supportive in those cases too like cold laser, chiropractic, acupuncture or homeopathy. Not sure what part of Florida you are in, but I practice down there as well. If you should ever need help with other canine companions, see my website Again sorry for your recent loss.

  40. Both of my wiener dogs at different times were shaky and had weak hind legs.One of my dogs could not jump on the couch,could not climb stairs and would lay under the bed shaking.I thought maybe she had really bad arthritis or a bad back injury.I gave her calcium pills in wet cat food and she got better for a little later I gave my dog a calcium pill in meat and my dog got worse as the days went by.Every day I gave my dog a calcium pills and she didn’t get better.It later dawned on me that maybe the wet cat food is what helped the first time.I gave my dog wet cat food every day for a few days and my dog improved immediately back to normal.Later when my other dog got the same type of condition,I gave her wet cat food and it worked for her and she went back to normal…Sharing this story because I believe it will help a lot of dogs.

  41. I have never heard of wet cat food helping doxie dogs or any other breeds with spinal disc issues. Glad to hear, however that they are doing well.

  42. We have a mutt (50 lb pit mix) who is almost 8 years old and has disc disease. Her first injury was over 2 years ago and despite full paralysis in her back legs she showed improvement within 5-6 days of crate rest and medication and made a full recovery with 6 weeks total in her crate. She had a second episode approx 6 months later with paralysis again and lack of bowel control. We repeated the crate rest and then reduced her activity (short walks, limited stairs, no climbing/couches, etc) and she was healthy until a few days ago. We do not believe there was any specific trauma but within a couple days she has returned to full paralysis in her back legs with no feeling or bladder control. Surgery is not an option. We will start acupuncture and laser today and will try some supplements like Omega 3 along with her meds. My question is about chiropractic care. We do not have a canine chiropractor close by but we would like to try some massage and/or adjustments and wondering if you know of any good resources to help us do these ourselves. Thanks.

  43. HI LM. Sorry to hear about your dog’s recurrent disc issues, which can be quite frustrating. Sounds like you are doing everything humanely possible. I would go to Dr Roger Clemens, Dvm, phd, website who is world renowned veterinary neurologist who I have worked with on such cases here in South Florida. Dr Clemmens taught at University of Florida vet school for decades in addition to the chi institute here in Florida. I dont have his website off the top of my head but if you google his name, that should do it, and then once on his website, there are excellent resources on diet, supplements, etc. During acute disc issues, chiropractic not a good idea, but certainly after the acute episode hopefully settles down, chiropractic may help preventatively

  44. My dog Spike was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and was just recently put on gabapentin 100mg. I was just wondering how long does it take to start working on him .

  45. My dog had surgery in May of 2017 due to a disc rupture which I was told was the result of it being degenerative. Since then with lots of at home physical therapy I’m happy to report that he is doing great. My concern is that this may happen again. Is there anything that can be done to prevent it from occurring again and are there things that we should be limiting him from doing?

Leave a Comment