A traumatic disc extrusion, also known as a ‘traumatic slipped disc’ or ‘explosive disc extrusion’, occurs when a small fragment of material from the centre of a disc suddenly breaks free and travels at speed through the outer ring of the disc and collides with the delicate spinal cord.
The most common causes of this type of injury are road traffic accidents and trauma sustained when dogs run into objects such as trees or patio doors. However, rupture of the discs in the spine can also occur when dogs are exercising vigorously.
Affected dogs may show signs of:
Investigations are generally required in order to diagnose traumatic disc extrusions and rule out other causes of sudden spinal injury, such as a stroke, spinal fracture or degenerative slipped disc.
Normal X-rays of the spine may show that the space where an affected disc lies looks narrower than normal, suggesting that some of the disc material has moved out of position, but more advanced investigations are necessary to see if a disc has actually ruptured and to assess whether or not it is pressing on the spinal cord. Of the various advanced imaging techniques available to vets an MRI scan provides the best method of investigating this condition.
Traumatic disc extrusions generally cause spinal cord concussion or bruising rather than resulting in ongoing pressure on the spinal cord. The damage done by concussion or bruising cannot be treated surgically, and as a result surgery is not usually of any value in treating cases of traumatic disc extrusion. Instead, the patient needs to be given time to allow the damaged nerve tissue to recover.
Supportive care after a traumatic disc extrusion are essential in order to aid recovery. Bedding needs to be well padded in order to prevent bed sores. Regular physiotherapy and, in some cases, swimming at a hydrotherapy unit can help function to be regained and assist in building strength.
Rehabilitation therapy is a key component in helping aid the recovery from neurological diseases. Once the vet has diagnosed your pet and completed any surgeries, our team can can step in to aid the long road to recovery.
Initial therapy may include standing exercises, as well as range of motion exercises. These are complimented with pain control and toe pinch exercises. An important part of the retraining is aquatic rehabilitation. Often, with more severe cases, one of our trained neurological hydro therapists will assist the dog whist in our underwater treadmill.
Other exercises include balance exercises, core stability and spacial resistance band walking, physio-roll balancing and home specific exercises. In the hydrotherapeutic environments, the dogs will walk and train with resistance against the water, whether walking or swimming. We also use therapeutic electrotherapies to deep-heat muscles, cryotherapy and laser therapy to aid the recovery process.
The content on this page is for advice and information only and does not represent veterinary guidance or direction. Please always consult a veterinary surgeon if you are worries about your dog.