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The canine spine is similar to the human spine and it is designed to give support and strength as well as protect the spinal cord which is the bodies method of sending messages around the body. It runs from the base of the skull to the tip of the tail.

The spinal column on a dog is separated into four sections.

  • The cervical section in the neck has 7 vertebrae
  • The thoracic in the mid-back has 13 vertebrae
  • The lower back or lumbar area has 7 vertebrae 
  • The sacral area around the pelvic region has 3 vertebrae.
  •  The dogs tail usually consists of between 6 and 23 vertebrae.

If you suspect your pet has suffered an injury to his spine, extreme care must be taken not to make the injury worse.  When we talk about spinal injury, we are not just looking at a fracture to the bones but also to damage to the spinal cord or to the parts of the spine.

If you suspect a spinal injury

  • Seek immediate veterinary assistance, they can advise you and prepare for your arrival
  • Consider how you will stabilise your pet and transport them to the vet
  • Keep checking your pet's vital signs, paying particular attention to their breathing rate and pattern

Spinal injury is a serious condition and may;

  • cause severe pain
  • lead to the inability to breathe properly
  • cause an inability to use their hind limbs or all four limbs
  • cause them to cry out in pain if they move their head or torso

You need to find a way of transporting the animal to the vets while minimising movement and immobilising them.  Some type of board or a sturdy, flat material should be obtained.

  • For small pets, a pet carrier or thick cardboard may be sufficient
  • Several layers of cardboard taped together may work for medium-sized dogs
  • For larger dogs, a car parcel shelf may work, or a large piece of wood or hardboard
  • If nothing else is available clothing or a quilt can be used as a sling but this will not provide much support and should only be used if there are no other options available
  • Secure the pet in place with strips of tape over their shoulders and hips attached to the board
  • Transport to the veterinary facility immediately

Phone ahead if possible so the staff are ready to help you move the animal out of your car. They will have equipment available to safely transport your pet to the vets.