Monday, May 16, 2016

Dog crate rest: How to help when your dog hurts his back

Liam the pug in his crate
Life with a pug, or any dog, can be a little unpredictable. That's especially true when it comes to injuries. Even the simple little things your dog might do a thousand times could take a bad turn just once. And when that happens, you could spend months trying to fix the problem.

Consider sad Liam in his crate, for example. He's parked in here due to the simplest of things.

Late Saturday night, Liam jumped up into a chair next to me, and he started to turn a little circle in order to get comfortable. I, for my part, tried to lift up my arm to give him more room. And then the screaming began.

Pugs make a very shrill, strangled sound when they're happy. I've been told Liam sounds like a cross between a pig, a parrot and a human baby when he's really happy. And apparently, he also makes this noise when he's in pain.

On Saturday, I had never heard him make this particular pain noise before. By Sunday, he was making it consistently. And he was struggling to walk normally. One foot wasn't touching the ground at all, and he looked a little drunken as he tried to hobble on his other 3 legs.

Off to the clinic we went, where the diagnosis was probable IVDD. This means the discs in Liam's back are starting to deteriorate, and it's possible that the tissue in one of those disks is pressing on Liam's spinal cord.

If Liam was unable to walk at all or he was unable to feel pain in his toes, we'd be dealing with an emergency neurological situation. Those symptoms would mean his spinal cord was no longer communicating with some part of his body, and if we didn't get it repaired, he might not walk again.

As it was, Liam was functioning well on a neurological level. He was painful, but he could walk. And the more he walked, the better he seemed to get at it. But, continued walking puts continued pressure on his spine. And if he tripped or fell or somehow wrenched his back, he could sever that delicate cord.

So he's on very strict crate rest for at least 2 weeks. That means he is in this crate around the clock, with breaks only to pee. And to make it out to pee, I have to carry him. He has food, water and toys in his crate. And I move his crate around with me, so he can always see what I am doing. He has little foster kitten television to keep his mind active, but he is in that crate.

He's also taking a barrage of medications, including painkillers and muscle relaxants, and those help to keep him calm and serene. They also assist with his pain.

It's been about 36 hours since Liam hurt his back, and he is already improving. The screaming has stopped, he is eating again and he can walk during his pee breaks without looking drunk. He also places all 4 feet on the ground when he walks, stands up or turns around in his crate. But he has a long way to go. From time to time, he still shivers with discomfort. And I don't think his meds are good for his stomach.

Liam heads to a specialist on Thursday, where we'll see if this course of treatment is the right one. If it is, he will continue with this strict crate rest for several more weeks. But if he declines between now and then (more pain, a return of the limping, inability to walk), he might need surgery. We're keeping the car gassed up, just in case we have to rush him to the specialist.

Is a crate right for all dogs with back pain? I'm not sure. Some dogs simply will not tolerate being in a crate, and they might jump and leap and cause trouble to their backs due to the stress of confinement. Others have such severe back problems that a crate just isn't enough. And (let's face it), discipline on the part of the person is required. Crate rest means in the crate, all the time, and some people have a tendency to cheat a little. That could cause yet more back trouble.

But with a mild-to-moderate injury and a dedicated owner, it could work, they tell me. I hope they're right. And I just hope he doesn't need the long course of care some bloggers suggest (6-8 weeks!).

Watch for updates!


  1. Poor Liam ...sure hope the crate rest works and he improves quickly. I'm not sure Ruby would tolerate being in a crate - would probably stress her out and she would be one of those dogs to wiggle and paw to get out. Hopefully, we never have to find out.

  2. I sure hope Liam improves, or a least stays the same, and doesn't need surgery. Getting the news of IVDD can be really scary. A million things went through my head. I did what we were told though and Gretel is doing better. It will take a lifestyle change to fit in her daily walks and rehab exercises to keep her healthy but we're hoping there are no relapses or they are mild. Good luck to you guys!

  3. Haha, I did not know pugs sound a little like pigs!! Great article!! Love x