Your dog’s neck or the cervical spine is comprised of seven vertebrae, almost every mammal has 7 vertebrae including us humans.
The purpose of the neck is to support the head and protect the spinal cord while the muscles of the neck stabilize the head, neck, and the lower back. These muscles also produce all of the movements of the head, help with posture, and any undesired stresses to the area. The position of your dog’s head is crucial to help with things like sense of balance, visual and hearing functions, eating and breathing. Additional actions such as self-grooming, protection and stance are also dependent upon the posture of the neck and head (Gross, 2018).
The neck region is active in various simple movements such as looking up for a treat, drinking water from a bowl, eating food, sniffing the floor, coming down stairs, or jumping out of a car. Supplementary dynamic movements including sporting activities like agility, flyball and many more.
Your dog’s muscles can withstand more stress and are much larger than the human neck. Dogs can endure pulling on collars on their neck – although this is not recommended. When the neck is hurt, or there is an underlying health issue, those large muscles will go into a sudden involuntary muscular contraction. Many physical therapists will vouch that neck pain in dogs is one of the most painful conditions! Significant amount of pain is caused when the neck muscles are spasming.
Signs of neck discomfort include the following:
- Reluctance to raise the head or look up
- Low head carriage
- Pain when looking up
- Stiff or sore neck
- Pain with sudden movements
- Reluctance to drink or eat from a food/water bowel
- Unwillingness to jump off furniture or to go down stairs
- Reluctance to run or trot due to the shoulder extension needed for these movements.
- Hesitancy to play games such as tug.
- Yelping or crying
- Pain in the neck, and avoidance of being touched in the neck region.
- Possible avoidance of chewing hard objects – bones, bully sticks, etc.
- Spasms of the cervical muscles
- Unwillingness to turn the head to the right or left may indicate neck pain associated with intervertebral disk disease or bruising.
If you suspect neck pain in your dog, it’s important to book an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. In many cases radiographic diagnosis (X-ray, CT or MRI) will need be carried out. Numerous problems with the neck can be treated conservatively with medications, rest and rehabilitation. Surgery, however may be required in severe cases of cervical intervertebral disk disease. The worst thing you can do is continue to aggravate the area.
To learn more about Pet Nurture or to book a Free phone consultation contact Melina on 0403 939 202 or Enquiries@PetNurture.com.au
Gross, D. (2018). Canine Fitness Trainer 1. USA. Retrieved March 18, 2018, from https://fenzidogsportsacademy.com/index.php/my-courses/248-cc320-lectures/4912-week-3-the-end-no-not-really
J, R. L. (1997). Canine Orthopedics. New York, USA: Howell Book House. Retrieved March 10, 2018
Individual blogs are based upon the opinions of the specific author, who retains full copyright. The material is not intended as medical advice, it’s intended as a sharing of knowledge and information.
We are not veterinarians and do not diagnose any conditions, perform surgery or prescribe medications, we can assess the muscles as part of being a Myofunctional Therapist. Muscle therapy is not a replacement for proper veterinary care and any injury or disease must be medically diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian. We encourage you to make your own pet health care choices in collaboration with a certified pet health care professional.