Slipped Discs, Dog Spaying and Stopping Your Dog Being Scary! - Call the Vet #28

This Call the Vet episode is all about:

  1.  What to do if you’re scared of dogs jumping up, and what we can all do as dog owners to help people scared of dogs

  2.  The best way to treat a dog with a slipped disk - is surgery really the only option?

  3.  When to spay your female dog, along with the risks and benefits of having this procedure carried out

call the vet 28: slipped discs, dog fear, and when to spay

Jumping Dog Fear

I'm going to my friend’s house tomorrow, and she has four dogs: one little, two mediums, and one big. How can I stay calm while the dogs are jumping up at me because I'm scared of dogs that bark and jump up. I've been there before and got over it, but I feel even more nervous than ever. Please could you help? Thanks. - Roblox

a fear of dogs affects 9% of people
  • A fear of dogs is very common, affecting 9% of the population.

  • Speak to your friend or family member about your fear of dogs.

    • Ask them to exercise their dogs before your visit so their pets will have less energy and therefore, less likely to jump up.

    • Ask them to shut the dogs away when you arrive and only bring out the calmest dog if you are feeling comfortable.

  • If the dog is jumping up and you feel uncomfortable or unable to say anything:

    • Stand tall. Cross your arms and fold them across your chest.

    • Have a wide stance, preferably beside the dog to have lesser chance of being knocked over.

    • Don’t look at the dog in the eyes, Stay quiet and calm. Breathe deeply and slowly.

  • To get over your fear:

    • Analyze your situation - what specific situations are you scared of?

    • Learn to read a dog’s body language.

    • Control the environment and take things slowly to try and desensitize your fear of dogs.

    • Seek professional help.

Related articles:

Highlighted Resource

Download my free summer dog care guide.

In this free ebook, you will discover the dangers you need to be aware of, as well as how to prevent your dog from suffering heat-related injury, illness and even death.

This book could literally save your dog's life!

Slipped Disc Diagnosis and Treatment

Our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is suffering discoordination. She is only not quite 8. Vet said to take her to a neurologist, but the specialist recommended an MRI at about $2,800-$3,200 which we cannot afford. I would be so happy if this was all it was. The specialist is talking potential operation if it is a disc problem. That is going to cost $10,000! The dog is on prednisone for the moment but weaves in and out of being okay and not okay for weeks now. Are there tests to confirm this before having to resort to MRI and is surgery the only effective treatment? - Hold Me Back

slipped disc severity grading
  • It sounds like this dog is suffering from intervertebral disc disease, also known as a slipped disc.

  • There is a range of severity and symptoms seen with a slipped disc, which can be graded from 1 to 4

    • Stage 1: Spinal pain only. There are no problems with function.

    • Stage 2: Muscular weakness appears, as well as loss of normal nerve function. This results in problems moving, tripping, stumbling, becoming wobbly or scuffing their feet.

    • Stage 3: A dog becomes unable to stand and walk, but there is still some movement in their legs. They may also develop urinary retention, and are unable to express their bladder.

    • Stage 4: The dog becomes paralyzed with definite urine retention. In stage 4A, the dog still has sensation, and can feel you squeezing their feet. In stage 4B (sometimes called Stage 5), there is a complete loss of sensation. No matter how hard you squeeze their feet, they cannot feel anything.

  • Intervertebral disc disease is diagnosed in a number of ways

    • Clinical examination may be able to demonstrate a problem with nerve function.

    • X-Rays can show a narrowing of where a disc would normally be, and also may show disc degeneration. These changes are not always present and so x-rays can appear normal despite a slipped disc being present.

    • Mylography involves injecting a contrast medium into the space around the spinal cord. A thinning or disruption to the contrast material can demonstrate the presence of a slipped disc.

    • MRI is the best way to diagnose intervertebral disc disease.

  • Surgical treatment and conservative management are both treatment options. Their suitability depends on the severity of the problem.

  • Surgery:

    • Surgery involves opening up the spine and removing the disc material and stabilizing the vertebrae. It is invasive and technically demanding, generally carried out by surgical specialists.

    • Surgery should be carried out as quickly as possible. This is especially important with the higher grade 4B, where ideally the operation should be performed within 24 hours.

    • Your dog needs to be confined for about four weeks after surgery to allow everything to heal and stabilize.

  • Conservative management,

    • This is appropriate for grades 1 and 2, when a dog is still able to walk and move.

    • A grade 2 dog that is deteriorating despite appropriate management should ideally have surgery.

    • Management involves pain control and strict confinement for about four to six weeks at minimum. A dog needs to be confined to a small crate where they can have food and water but have space for little else. They need to move as little as possible.

    • When taking your dog to toilet, carry them out if possible and use a harness with their lead rather than a collar.

    • If your dog is unable to move around, keep them in a well-padded and clean area to prevent ulcers and urine scalding.

    • Manual bladder emptying is necessary if they have urinary retention. This will need to be done three to four times a day.

    • Physiotherapy is also going to help with joint and muscle function.

  • Pain management is crucial. 

    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are generally felt to be a better choice than steroids. 

    • Gabapentin can be given for neuropathic pain.

    • Opioids like morphine, buprenorphine or topical fentanyl can also be given, depending on licensing, and are typically administered in the veterinary hospital only.

  • Prognosis for recovery:

    • With surgery, 90% of dogs with stage 4A or less will recover. This drops to 60% in dogs with grade 4B slipped discs

    • With conservative management, dogs with grade 3 disease or less have about an 80% chance of recovery. In dog is paralyzed but still able to feel pain (Grade 4A), about 60% of cases improve. For Grade 4B disease, recovery falls to only 10%

    • 6% of dogs that suffer from a slipped disc will have repeat episodes, although this figure is much higher in certain breeds, such as the Dachshund.

When to Spay a Golden Retriever?

I have a Golden Retriever and I’m having a tough time deciding when to spay her. She is currently 8 months and is almost done with her first heat cycle. I'm worried about things like cancer, bone development, and other things. I also wanted to know your opinion. -Mounira

not all dogs should be spayed at 6 months old
  • The traditional , dogmatic view that all bitches should be spayed at around 6 months of age is being called into question. In the last few years, we’ve seen an increase in the amount of information about both the benefits and risks of spaying.

  • The benefits of spaying include:

    • Reduction in the risk of mammary cancer

    • Eliminate the risk of pyometra

    • Reduces roaming and being hit on the road

    • Reduces risk of sexually transmitted diseases such as Brucella and Transmissible Venereal Tumors (TVT)

    • Stops unwanted pregnancy. This eliminates the risks of pregnancy (including cesarian section and eclampsis). The other benefit is reducing unwanted puppies entering the shelter system where there is a good chance they’ll be euthanized.

  • Spaying risks

    • Every surgery and anesthetic carries some risk

    • Obesity following surgery is very common

    • Spayed dogs are three times more likely to develop urinary incontinence

    • Increased risk of cruciate ligament disease has been suggested in German Shepherds neutered before 12 months of age and Golden Retrievers that were spayed before six months of age. No difference has been found in Labradors

    • Labradors spayed under two years of age seem to be more at risk of developing hip dysplasia.

    • There may be an increased risk of lymphoma or cancer in Labradors and Retrievers spayed between six and 11 months, but this is not a consistent finding.

  • Generalizations are hard to make. A new finding cannot be applied to every breed of dog of every size! What is true for one breed may be the complete opposite even in a closely related breed.

  • Differences can be due to the different risks you are comfortable living with, different resources available to you, and the breed of your pet. You shouldn’t feel under pressure to make the "right" decisions.  There is no such thing.

  • For small breed dogs, I recommend spaying when they are around six months of age, before their first season.

  • For larger breed dogs, if there is no risk of them becoming pregnant and they can be successfully managed while they are in heat, I generally recommend delaying this operation until they reach one year of age or a little older.

  • There is no right answer. Feel free to make up your own mind when to spay your dog.

Related articles:

If you would like to support the podcast, sharing with your friends and leaving a review on iTunes helps more than you can imagine. Thanks!

You can subscribe to the show here on Apple Podcasts, or Google Podcasts, or Spotify, or any app of your choice.

If you would like me to answer any question you have about your pet’s health, simply fill in this form and I’ll try and get you the information that you need. It’s that simple!