Skip to content

Healthy Dogs

Font Size

Ruptured Discs in Dogs


Hansen Type 2 discs ruptures occur in the larger breeds, including German Shepherd Dogs and Labrador Retrievers. The entire disc, surrounded by its capsule, gradually impinges on the spinal canal. Symptoms appear in dogs 5 to 12 years of age. Because the process is gradual, symptoms progress slowly.

Ruptured discs in the neck of the Hansen Type 1 cause a dog to carry her head low and rigidly, making the neck look shorter. This type of injury is extremely painful. A dog will often cry out when patted on the head and refuse to lower her head to eat and drink. Weakness and lameness involve the front legs. Complete paralysis of all four legs does occur but is rare.

Hansen Type 2 neck discs occur with the wobbler syndrome discussed on page 379.

Treatment: A dog with a sudden onset of symptoms of paralysis requires immediate veterinary evaluation. If surgery is indicated, the best outcome is when it is performed within 24 hours.

Most disc problems involving pain or mild paresis improve with rest and medication. The dog should be closely confined for two to four weeks to allow the disc to return to its former position. Corticosteroids reduce swelling and inflammation. Analgesics relieve pain.

Dogs with neck disc problems should be walked with a chest harness rather than a collar.

Disc injuries that cause paralysis require special handling and transporting, as described for Spinal Cord Injuries, page 375. The most common surgery is called a laminectomy. It involves opening the spinal column and removing the extruded disc material. Dogs undergoing surgery will still need a period of careful rehabilitation afterward.

A newer method is to use of proteolytic enzymes to dissolve the disc material. This is called chemonucleolysis. This may only be appropriate for dogs who are in pain without neurologic deficits. If there are neuological signs, surgery is often the better option because it relieves pressure on the spinal cord more quickly.

Acupuncture and physical therapy may be incorporated into treatment protocols.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"

1 | 2

Today on WebMD

bulldog in party hat
Breeds with longevity
Doberman Pinscher Clipped Ears
The facts about ear cropping and tail docking.
dog with duck in mouth
Which are considered smartest?
boxer dog
What are their health issues?
Pit bull looking up
Pets: Is My Dog Normal
Dog scratching behind ear
dog catching frisbee

Love your pets, hate your allergies?

Get tips for relief.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Dog Breed RMQ
Lady owner feeding dog
bulldog in party hat