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Degenerative Disk

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I wasn't sure if anyone would look under the title "Back Pain" anymore so I have started a new topic. My vet X-rayed Da Vid today and he has a Degenerative Disk in his lower back. Have anyone had experience with this? Will he get better? He is 5 years old and is very active. I would not have known anything was wrong if it wasn't for the panting. Will this require surgery?? Thanks so much again, Nan


Jane, I am sorry the Thunder Shirt did not work for you.

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What exactly did your vet see on the x-rays that he said was a 'degenerative disc'? Disc problems don't usually show up on x-rays. Some of the signs you might see on x-rays would be arthritis in the spine that shows up as bone spurs under the vertebrae; or narrowed disc spaces, or mineralized discs, which might indicate a disc problem. But you would need additional imaging (myelogram, CT, or MRI) to really know if the disc is causing spinal cord compression.


Hard to provide info without knowing exactly what's going on with Da Vid's back. Some back problems require surgery - usually if there's significant compression of the spinal cord, or if medical therapy isn't enough to control the signs. However, many cases of back problems can be managed with rest, medication, and other modalities like acupuncture, chiropractic, and 'cold' laser treatments.

Jennifer &

Willow (Wilma Waggle), Wiki (Wiki Hard Ten), Carter (Let's Get It On),

Ollie (whippet), Gracie (whippet x), & Terra (whippet) + Just Saying + Just Alice


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I'm not sure how much this will help, but I have two degenerated discs in my lower back. I know I'm not a dog, but perhaps the treatment is similar.


First of all, the only way to definitively say it is a disc is with an MRI or myelogram. They can look for a narrowed space between two vertebrae on an x-ray and assume it is a degenerated disc (i.e. it has flattened so much that it is not providing the space necessary for the nerves to come out the "holes" between the two vertabrae. They can also (at least in a human) take into account exactly where it hurts and what movements cause the pain. However the pain pattern could also be caused by a herniated disk, or even muscle inflammation. So once again, without an MRI, they can not conclusively say it is a degenerated disc.


Treatments available to me are:

Decompression therapy (essentially a form of traction that works to increase the space between the vertebrae) combined with strengthening exercise in hopes that the muscles will help keep the space between the vertebrae

Lifestyle modification -- changing how you do things so as not to bend at the level of the vertebrae, causing the nerves to be pinched (for me this is avoiding sitting, high impact exercise, long periods of walking or standing)

Pain management -- acupuncture, opiate pain killers

Surgery (this includes a newer surgery where they insert spacers; a new surgery where they replace the discs; or the standard surgery, fusion, where the adjacent vertebrae are connected with metal rods, so the rods keep the appropriate space between the vertebrae (of course you are no longer able to "bend" between these two vertebrae)


I know for lumbar stenosis in a dog (common with greyhounds), they can do a steroid injection into the back to reduce inflammation, thereby reducing the pain. I don't know how helpful this would be for a degenerated disc. They can also do surgery to remove some bone (my dad calls this roto-rooting) to open up the foramen (hole) through which the nerves pass. If the disc is herniated, they can trim the disc just like they do in humans.


Since Da Vid is only 5, surgery might make sense. Ohio State University has an orthopedic surgeon (she did my Joe's amputation surgery) who has taken a special interest in back problems. Her name is Bianca Hettlich. I don't know if she would respond but you could try emailing her. Her email is hettlich.1@osu.edu


Here are some links about her:





I don't know if it would help, but you could say that I referred you to her. I am Jane Varley and I am Joe the greyhound's mother (probably how she would remember me).


edited to add: You could also try asking for a free greyhound consult through the greyhound health and wellness program. If you attach electronic copies of the x-rays, they may be able to get Dr. Hettlich to look at them. Here is the link to the consultation request form:



Edited by joejoesmom
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