From accidents to just plain old age, dogs can develop back troubles at any age. Anything from arthritis to a miscalculated jump off the couch can make it more difficult for pups to move around the way they used to. As painful as it can be for an owner to see, there are plenty of ways for them to help their dogs stay healthy as they get older or to aid in healing blunt trauma or unexpected injuries. It’s especially important for caregivers to understand how to treat an older or injured dog so the problem doesn't get any worse.

How to Spot Back Troubles

A dog can’t talk to their owners when they have back problems, but they can communicate in a few other ways. The clearest sign of pain is when an owner attempts to move their dog and they yelp or howl in distress, but there are plenty of other symptoms that may not be as obvious. For example, a change in appetite can also signify that something’s wrong with the dog’s back, especially if they’re having trouble lifting and/or lowering their head to food and water dishes.  Dogs may start walking with an arched back, or just generally disengage from their once-active lifestyles. Finally, some dogs display constant low-grade shivering when they begin to develop back pain. All of these symptoms can be attributed to other types of health problems besides back pain, so caregivers should consult with their vet to clarify the root cause of the trouble.

Everyday Care

When it comes to everyday activities, the key is to alleviate any type of unnatural or unnecessary pressure on the dog’s back. Simply raising up food and water bowls a few inches off the ground means less sustained strain on their neck and spine. Owners should also keep an eye on the length of the dog’s toenails. The longer their nails, the more likely it is that their gait will be thrown off. Misalignment of their body can cause anything from knee to hip pain, and could potentially even lead to early-onset arthritis. In addition, pet owners should be monitoring their dog’s weight carefully. Back problems are exacerbated by extra pounds, so it helps for owners to keep their dog at a healthy weight for its size and breed.

Consider Additional Tools

From acupuncture to harnesses, there are a number of health therapies available for dogs with back problems. The right kind of leash or harness for your dog can make a big difference. Investing in a harness means there’s less stress on a dog’s sensitive neck while they’re walking. It puts the weight of the burden on their shoulders, which are better equipped for handling any potential leash jerks. There are also back braces specifically designed for practically every breed of dog to support and care for their spine. Braces are especially recommended for caregivers who still want to take their dogs on their usual hiking trails as opposed to standard sidewalks. Owners can also consider joining community groups on the internet to discuss treatment methods with other owners.

Picking up Your Dog the Right Way

When it comes to moving the dog, it’s important to give them all the support they need. The best way to to do it is for the owner to position one arm so the head of the dog is lying in the crook of the elbow. The other arm should go under the dog’s belly, closer to the back legs. If this doesn't work or if the dog is clearly uncomfortable, owners can pick the dog up from underneath, so long as their back legs and lower body are entirely supported. Caregivers will need to move slowly so as to not jar the dog’s sensitive body, and then set the dog down on their paws. If this isn’t possible because the dog cannot stand on their own, caregivers should lie the dog down (still on their paws) with full support before sliding the arms out from under them. Smaller dogs can be picked up by a single owner, but larger dogs might need an additional helper.

It can be uncomfortable for any dog lover to see their beloved pets in pain, but there are ways to be there for your pet when they need you the most. No matter the cause of a dog’s back pain, owners can make an effort to support their dog’s body and spirit while protecting them against potential future injuries.