Intervertebral Disc Herniation
The spinal cord is located inside the bony vertebral column. If any damage should occur to the spinal cord there is very little room for any swelling to take place without further damaging the cord. This is why most medical treatments are centered on reducing the swelling , especially in the early stages, in an effort to control the course and outcome of the spinal damage. When medical management fails to stabilize or improve the symptoms of spinal disease a surgical alternative to relieve the swelling is usually considered. Unfortunately, many times there is not a complete recovery despite whatever form of treatment that is persued.
In dogs the most common form of spinal disease comes from the herniation of an intervertebral disc. In cats the most common form of spinal disease comes from spinal tumors. In both cases the diagnosis is based on the history, clinical signs and x-ray’s. Both can be treated initially with high doses of cortisone. Usually a dye study of the spinal cord is done prior to any surgery being performed in either case. In the case of the herniated disc the prognosis is often reasonably favorable. In the case the spinal tumor, most of these are malignant and therefore the prognosis is poor. In either case if the symptoms are progressively worsening with time and/or are unresponsive to treatment the prognosis has to be poor.
While there is little that can be done to prevent most spinal diseases, early recognition and treatment will yield the best results possible. If you should see your pet becoming profoundly weak in the hind legs over a rather short period of time then spinal disease should be considered. Your veterinarian is the best to be able to discriminate spinal disease from the many other possibilities that exist.