Spinal disease

Conditions affecting the spine

Spinal disease includes conditions like intervertebral disc disease and degenerative myelopathy, which can cause a variety of symptoms in pets. Watch for the following signs:

  • Difficulty or reluctance to move, especially in the neck or back area
  • Stiffness or lameness in one or more limbs
  • Loss of coordination or balance, stumbling
  • Weakness or paralysis in the legs
  • Reluctance to jump or climb stairs
  • Pain or sensitivity when touched in specific areas, such as the back or neck area
  • Changes in posture, such as a hunched back or an abnormal head position
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Changes in behavior, such as irritability, decreased appetite, or withdrawal from social interaction.

In addition, cats may show subtle signs, including:

  • Increased hiding
  • Reduced grooming
  • Changes in vocalization
  • Changes in litter box habits, including urinating outside the box

Other health conditions may share similar symptoms with spinal disease, including Arthritis or spinal cord tumors.

If you notice any of these signs or have concerns about your pet’s health, it’s essential to consult with your veterinarian and seek veterinary care promptly. Early detection and intervention can improve the chances of successful management and prevent complications.

When you visit your veterinarian for concerns related to spinal disease, the following may occur:

  • Physical examination: The veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination of your pet, checking for any abnormalities in their spine, limbs, or overall posture. Sedation or pain medication may be needed to adequately assess the extent of the disease and alleviate any discomfort.
  • Diagnostic testing: Diagnostic testing such as radiographs (X-rays) or advanced imaging like MRI or CT scans may be recommended to evaluate the presence and extent of spinal disease. These tests help identify the underlying cause and determine the appropriate treatment approach.
  • Treatment options: Treatment options for spinal disease can vary depending on the severity, location, and underlying cause. It may involve medications for pain management, anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy or rehabilitation exercises to improve mobility and strength, and restricted activity or confinement to prevent further damage.
  • Advanced diagnostic or treatment options: In some cases, referral to a veterinary neurologist may be advised for more advanced diagnostics like MRI or CT scans and treatment, sometimes including back or neck surgery.
  • Palliative care: In severe or chronic cases, palliative care focuses on improving your pet's quality of life, managing symptoms, and providing comfort.
  • Follow-up care: Your veterinarian will discuss a follow-up plan, which may involve regular monitoring of your pet's condition, additional tests, or adjustments to the treatment regimen. It's crucial to maintain open communication with your veterinary care team throughout the process.

Your veterinary healthcare team will partner with you to decide which treatment option is best for your pet's and your family’s specific condition and situation.

While it may not be possible to prevent all types of spinal diseases, there are things you can do at home to help support your pet's spinal health:

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity can put extra strain on the spine, so keeping your pet at a healthy weight can reduce the risk of spinal issues.
  • Provide regular exercise: Regular exercise, especially low-impact activities like walking or swimming, helps keep your pet's muscles and joints strong, which can support their spinal health.
  • Use proper restraint and support: When lifting or carrying your pet, make sure to provide proper support to their spine and avoid sudden movements or jerking motions. Use a harness instead of a collar for leash walking.
  • Create a safe environment: Remove hazards from your pet's environment that could lead to falls or injuries, such as slippery surfaces or objects they could jump from.

Consult with your veterinarian for personalized advice and guidance on preventing spinal disease in your pet. They can provide tailored recommendations based on your pet's specific needs and medical history.

Please note that the information provided here is not a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If you suspect your pet has spinal disease or any other health concerns, consult your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Nationwide® pet insurance claim example

Veterinary bill

$1,141

You pay only

$114

Spinal disease

You save

$1,027

Example reflects Accident & Illness plan with optional Congenital & Hereditary rider as well as the optional Cruciate rider added after the first year of coverage, with unlimited annual limit for each category with 90% reimbursement after the $250 annual deductible has been met. This plan may not be available in all areas. Pre-existing conditions are not covered. Veterinary bill amount is based on expenses incurred in the first 30 days after initial diagnosis.

Nationwide® pet insurance claim example

Veterinary bill

$1,141

You pay only

$114

Spinal disease

You save

$1,027

Example reflects Accident & Illness plan with optional Congenital & Hereditary rider as well as the optional Cruciate rider added after the first year of coverage, with unlimited annual limit for each category with 90% reimbursement after the $250 annual deductible has been met. This plan may not be available in all areas. Pre-existing conditions are not covered. Veterinary bill amount is based on expenses incurred in the first 30 days after initial diagnosis.

Nationwide® pet insurance claim example

Veterinary bill

$1,141

You pay only

$114

Spinal disease

You save

$1,027

Example reflects Accident & Illness plan with optional Congenital & Hereditary rider as well as the optional Cruciate rider added after the first year of coverage, with unlimited annual limit for each category with 90% reimbursement after the $250 annual deductible has been met. This plan may not be available in all areas. Pre-existing conditions are not covered. Veterinary bill amount is based on expenses incurred in the first 30 days after initial diagnosis.