Back pain in dogs is not uncommon and the signs can be startling when first noticed. There are some breeds of dogs who have a higher chance of getting back pain during their life. Each breed prone to back problems can get different types of back pain. In the same vein, its good to understand that even if you own a breed of dog that has a predisposition to back pain, they may live a perfectly healthy life and never suffer any problems with back pain, especially if you take preventative measures to reduce the chance of back pain in your dog.
Will my dog be affected?
So, what types of dogs are prone to back pain? There are many, and not all will be listed here in this short summary. If you are interested in learning about conditions your dog is predisposed to, consider booking an online appointment to have an in-depth chat about the types of conditions your dog will be prone to, and preventative measures you can take to reduce the chances of those conditions occurring.
Interestingly it’s not just the breed that predisposes your dog to back pain but also their conformation, which means what shape they are. Dogs with long backs, corkscrew tails, or short bowed legs (often called queen Annes legs) are more likely to have back pain. This is because their conformation puts extra strain on the back. More strain on the back over a long period of time increases the risks of injury through repetitive strain on the muscles, ligaments, and bones.
Large and giant breed dogs are more likely to get degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis or degenerative myelopathy. This is because large and giant breeds carry more weight and tend to be active breeds, resulting in wear and tear on the joints leading to osteoarthritis and other conditions.
Genetics also play a part in the breeds affected by back pain. If dogs who suffer from back pain due to the way their body is formed are bred together there is a high chance that their puppies will also have this same issue. An example of this is French bulldogs who suffer from kinked backs. When a dog is born with a genetic issue, such as a malformed spine, there is often no treatment to correct this problem. Available treatment focuses on improving their quality of life and keeping them healthy for as long as possible with good weight management, joint supplements, and regular consistent exercise.
Some breeds of dogs are more predisposed to weight gain, especially after desexing. Examples include Labradors, pugs, and terrier breeds. Obesity adds extra weight to the back and legs, increasing the wear and tear on the supportive structures and increasing the risk of injuries. Learn more about the ideal weight for your pet.
Top six high-risk breeds
Dachshunds are most likely to get a condition called intervertebral disk disease. Around one in five Dachshunds will suffer some degree of intervertebral disk disease at some point during their lives.
German Shepherds are bred to have long sloping backs, which leads to degenerative myelopathy, hip dysplasia, and osteoarthritis. They are also prone to neuroblastoma, a cancer of the back.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
This breed, particularly dogs with genetics linked to the United Kingdom, can suffer from syringomyelia as well as intervertebral disk disease and osteoarthritis.
English bulldogs are the breed most prone to malformations of the spine, including conditions such as spina bifida, and kyphosis (kinking) of the spine.
Beagles are prone to intervertebral disk disease and meningitis. They can also suffer from osteoarthritis in old age.
Rottweilers are prone to osteoarthritis and sadly bone cancer. Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer seen in dogs. Desexed male and female Rottweilers who are over seven years old are more likely to get bone cancer.
Can I get insurance if my dog is prone to back problems?
Unfortunately, not always so it's very important to read the terms and conditions closely before purchasing a policy. Some insurance companies will exclude high-risk conditions such as IVDD in Dachshunds because the likelihood of a claim is high.
Other conditions such as congenital defects (present from birth) may also be excluded. Depending on the policy you buy, not all conditions will be covered.
Make a list of the high-risk conditions your dog is predisposed to and make a point to ask the insurer if these conditions are covered, and the extent of the coverage they will pay for. Some surgical procedures can be thousands of dollars and you may find your insurance will only pay for a portion of this care. We always recommend pet insurance to all pet owners regardless of pre -exclusions as accidents can happen at any time!
What can I do to prevent a back injury in my dog?
Learn all about preventing back injuries in dogs.
Are there tests to predict if a dog will get back disease?
There are a lot of genetic home testing or DNA tests on the market but they are not reliable. Testing for back issues is currently limited and more research needs to be done in this area. For breeding dogs, a full health check and x-rays of their back are taken to look for conformational deformities or evidence of osteoarthritis or calcification.
The best advice is to buy from licensed and reputable breeders with healthy breed stock. Ask for proof of health checks in the parents and visit in person if possible. A veterinary examination before or on the day of purchase is recommended.
There are many breeds that are prone to back disease. Knowing if your dog has the potential to be affected will enable you to prepare for this possibility. If your dog is affected, learn more about how to treat back pain here.