Understanding Pinched Nerve in Dogs Neck: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

pinched nerve in dogs neck

Just like humans, dogs, whether they are older or younger, may face various health issues, with pinched nerves being a common condition that may arise.

Pinched nerves, also known as compressed nerve or nerve impingement, occur when excessive pressure is placed on a nerve, resulting in pain, discomfort, and various neurological symptoms. 

This condition can affect dogs of all dog breeds and ages, and understanding its causes, symptoms, and treatment options is crucial for providing timely and effective care for our furry companions.

In this article, we cover topics like symptoms of pinched nerves in a dog’s neck, how you know your dog has pinched nerves, treatment for the condition, and more.

Also Read: Why Are Dogs Back Legs Weak?

Table of Contents

What Are the Symptoms of a Pinched Nerve in Dog’s Neck? How Do You Know if Your Dog Has a Pinched Nerve in Their Neck?

According to the experts at VCA Hospitals, the following are some of the most common signs that a dog has a pinched nerves in its neck:

Neck Pain and Stiffness

 Dogs with bulging disc in their neck may experience pain and stiffness in the affected area. Dog exhibits reluctance to move their head or neck, and may hold their neck in an abnormal position.

Sensitivity to Touch

Dogs with pinched nerves may show signs of sensitivity when the affected area is touched or manipulated. They may flinch, yelp, or display signs of discomfort.

Altered Gait and Posture

Dogs with pinched nerves in their neck may exhibit changes in their gait and posture. They may have difficulty maintaining balance, walk with an abnormal gait, or show a head tilt to one side.

Restricted Range of Motion

 Dogs may have trouble raising or lowering their heads fully due to pain and limited mobility caused by the pinched nerves. They may avoid certain movements or exhibit stiffness when trying to move their neck.

Muscle Weakness

 In more severe cases, dogs may experience muscle weakness in their neck or four limbs on the side affected by the condition. This weakness may be accompanied by a lack of coordination or stumbling.

Behavioral Changes

 Dogs in pain may display changes in their behavior. They may become irritable, restless, or exhibit signs of aggression when approached or touched. They might also withdraw or become less active.

Also Read: Old Dog Back Leg Collapsing

What Causes Back and Neck Pain in Dogs

Back and neck pain in dogs can have various causes. Here are some common factors that can contribute to back and neck pain in dogs:

IVD in Dogs

IVD stands for Intervertebral Disc Disease in dogs. It is a condition that affects the disc material located between the vertebrae of the spine. These discs act as cushions and allow for flexibility and shock absorption in the spine. When the disc material bulges and pushes the spine, it causes pain.

 Intervertebral Disc Disease

This occurs when these disc material degenerate or become damaged, leading to compression of the spinal cord or nerves. This can result in symptoms ranging from, pain, weakness, loss of coordination, and even partially paralyzed.

 IVD is commonly seen in certain dog breeds, such as Dachshunds, Beagles, Doberman Pinschers, and Corgis, but it can affect dogs of any breed or size. These are chondrodystrophic breeds.

Therapy options for IVD may include rest, medication, physical therapy, and in severe cases, surgical intervention (surgery).

Symptoms of Cervical Disc Disease in Dogs

  • Neck pain
  • Stiffness
  • Reluctance to move
  • Changes in gait
  • Whining, vocalizing, irritability
  • Painful movements
  • Lack of appetite
  • Depression
  • Partial paralysis
  • Behavioral changes

Trauma or Injury

 Falls, accidents, or injuries to spinal cord during play can result in back and neck pain in dogs. Activities like jumping from heights, being hit by a vehicle, or sudden movements that strain the shoulders, neck or back can lead to sprains, strains, fractures, or other forms of injury. The disc material could push on the spinal cord resulting in pain. X ray can confirm this.


As dogs age, they are prone to suffer from arthritis in their bones, which is inflammation and degeneration of the joints. Arthritis can affect the spine, leading to pain and discomfort in the back and neck areas.

Muscular Strain or Sprain

 Overexertion, improper exercise, or sudden movements can cause muscular strain or sprain in the back or neck muscles, resulting in pain and discomfort. There may be partial paralysis.

Infections or Inflammation of Spinal Cord

Infections such as discospondylitis (inflammation of the intervertebral discs and adjacent vertebrae) or meningitis (inflammation of the protective membranes around the brain and spinal cord) can cause pain in the back and neck areas.

Spinal Cord Abnormalities

 Congenital or acquired spinal abnormalities, such as spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal), spondylosis (formation of bony spurs on the vertebrae of spinal cord), partial paralysis, or vertebral malformations, can lead to back and neck pain in dogs.


 Cancerous or benign tumors can develop in the spinal cord or surrounding tissues, causing pain and discomfort in the back and neck regions.

What are the Signs of Neck Pain in Dogs? Symptoms of Back and Neck Pain in Dogs‍

Clinical signs of IVDD occurs or neck pain pinching of nerve include 

Reluctance to Move or Stiffness

 Dogs with neck pain may be hesitant to move their head or neck and may exhibit stiffness when trying to do so. They may be reluctant to turn their head or have difficulty looking up or down.

Change in Posture

Many dogs in pain may adopt a hunched or lowered head posture, trying to minimize movement of the neck. Dogs carry their heads tilted to one side or have a noticeable head tilt.

Neck Sensitivity

Dogs with neck pain may display sensitivity or discomfort when the neck area is touched or manipulated. Dogs tend to flinch, yelp, growl, or show clinical signs of aggression if you attempt to touch or examine their neck.

Altered Gait

Dogs may exhibit changes in their gait or movement of four limbs due to neck pain. They may walk with a stiff neck, tense abdomen, or choppy gait, and they might avoid certain movements that involve bending or extending the neck, such as climbing stairs or jumping.

Vocalization or Irritability

 Dogs in pain may vocalize their discomfort, such as whining, whimpering, or growling. They may also display clinical signs of irritability or aggression, especially if their neck area is approached or touched.

Loss of Appetite or Difficulty Eating

Neck pain can make it uncomfortable for dogs to eat, drink, or swallow. They may show a decreased appetite, have difficulty picking up food or water, or exhibit signs of discomfort while eating.

Behavioral Changes

 Dogs experiencing neck pain may exhibit changes in behavior. They may become more withdrawn, less active, or show signs of restlessness or agitation due to discomfort.

How Do You Treat Pinched Nerves in a Dog? What Can Be Done for Pinched Nerves in a Dog?

There are several treatment options for disc disease.

The treatment typically involves a combination of medical management, physical therapy, and in some cases, require surgery. The specific approach will depend on the severity of the condition, the underlying cause of the nerve compression, and the individual needs of the dog. Here are some common solutions:

Anti Inflammatory Medication

 Nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or pain relievers may be prescribed to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation associated with the pinched nerves. Additionally, pain medications or muscle relaxants might be used to manage discomfort and muscle spasms. It is important to follow the veterinarian’s instructions and dosage guidelines when administering medications.

Restricted Activity

 Restricting your dog’s activity and providing them with a comfortable, quiet space for sleeping can help reduce further irritation to the pinched nerves. This may involve crating or limiting physical exertion, such as avoiding jumping, running, or strenuous play.

Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation

 Physical therapy techniques can help relieve pain, restore mobility, and strengthen the affected area. This may involve passive range-of-motion exercises, massage, heat or cold therapy, hydrotherapy, and controlled exercises tailored to the dog’s condition.

 A professional veterinary rehabilitation therapist can guide you in implementing an appropriate rehabilitation plan.

Weight Management

 If obesity is a contributing factor to the pinched nerves, weight loss through a controlled diet and exercise program may be recommended. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce pressure on the affected area and improve overall mobility.

Surgical Intervention/Laser Therapy

 In severe cases of bulging disc, or when conservative therapy options do not provide relief, surgery may be considered. The goal of surgery is to alleviate the pressure on the compressed nerve by addressing the underlying cause. This could involve procedures such as decompressive surgery to remove herniated discs or address structural abnormalities in the spine.

Alternative Therapies

Some dogs may benefit from complementary therapies, such as acupuncture or chiropractic adjustments, which can help alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and improve nerve function. It’s important to consult with a veterinarian experienced in these alternative therapies to ensure they are appropriate for your dog’s specific condition.

It is crucial to work closely with a veterinarian to develop an individualized plan for your dog. Regular follow-up appointments will allow for the monitoring of progress and adjustment of therapy as needed. With proper care, most dogs with pinched nerves can experience improvement and regain their normal quality of life.

What Medicine Can I Give My Dog for a Pinched Nerve?

Some common types of medication that may be prescribed for dog pinched nerves in the neck are:

Nonsteroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

 NSAIDs are often prescribed to reduce the pain and inflammation associated with pinched nerves. Examples of NSAIDs commonly used in canines include carprofen, meloxicam, and deracoxib. It is important to follow the veterinarian’s instructions and dosing guidelines when administering NSAIDs, as they can have potential side effects.

Pain Medications

 Depending on the severity of the pain, your veterinarian may prescribe additional pain medications to help alleviate discomfort. These may include opioids, such as tramadol, or other analgesics specifically designed for dogs nerve root problems.

Muscle Relaxant Meds

If your dog is experiencing muscle spasms or tension due to painful nerve roots, relaxants may be prescribed. These medications help reduce muscle tightness and promote relaxation. Examples include methocarbamol or diazepam, which are commonly used in dogs.

How Long Does It Take for a Pinched Neck Nerve to Heal?

The time it takes for a pinched neck nerve roots to heal in dogs can vary depending on several factors, including the severity of the compression, the underlying cause, the age and overall health of the dog, and the therapies approach used. In general, nerve healing can be a gradual process that may take several weeks to months.

Mild Cases

Mild cases of pinched nerves may show improvement within a few weeks with conservative therapy, such as restricted activity, and medication. However, more extreme cases or those caused by structural abnormalities or degenerative conditions may require a longer healing time or even surgical intervention.

Significant Nerve Damage

It is important to note that complete resolution may not always be possible, especially if there is significant nerve damage. In some cases, pets may experience residual mild discomfort or weakness even after the initial healing period.

Individual Cases

Each dog is unique, and the timeline for nerve healing can vary. It is essential to follow the veterinarian’s plan and have regular follow-up appointments to monitor the dog’s progress. The veterinarian will be able to assess the healing process and make any necessary adjustments or even require surgery as needed. several episodes of pain may require surgery.

Home Treatment for Pinched Nerve in Dog’s Neck – How Do You Massage a Dog With a Pinched Nerve?

Here are some tips to massage a dog with pinched nerves:

Use Gentle Pressure

Start with gentle massage techniques and gradually increase force only if your dog shows signs of relaxation and comfort. Avoid applying excessive force or pressure, as it may exacerbate pain or discomfort.

Focus on Surrounding Muscles

 When massaging a dog, it’s important to focus on the muscles surrounding the affected area rather than directly targeting the point itself. This can help alleviate tension in legs and back, improve blood circulation, and promote overall relaxation.

Use Long, Slow Strokes

 Use long, sweeping strokes with your hands or fingers along the dog’s muscles. This can help loosen tight muscles and reduce tension and aid recovery. Avoid applying direct force to the point on the spine vertebrae or any areas of inflammation or discomfort.

Avoid Vibrations or Intense Pressure

 Avoid using vibrating massagers or applying intense pressure directly on the affected area, as this can potentially worsen the situation, hinder recovery, or cause severe discomfort.

Monitor Your Dog’s Response

 Observe your dog’s body language and behavior during the massage. If your dog shows signs of pain in legs or limbs, discomfort, or restlessness, discontinue the massage and consult a professional or veterinarian.


My dog was suddenly unable to turn her head to the side. She was diagnosed with a bulging intervertebral disc in her neck. What does this mean?

A bulging intervertebral disc in your dog’s neck means that one of the discs between the vertebrae is protruding or herniating, causing compression on the nerves or spinal cord. This can result in pain and restricted movement, such as the inability to turn her head to the side.

What causes back and neck pain in dogs?‍‍

Back and neck pain in dogs can be caused by factors such as intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), trauma or injury, arthritis, neurologic deficits, muscular strain or sprain in hind legs, infections or inflammation, spinal abnormalities, and tumors.

Aside from the breed predispositions for the two types of disc disease, are there other risk factors for bulging or ruptured intervertebral discs?

Yes, there are other risk factors for bulging or ruptured intervertebral discs in dogs, including obesity, age (older dogs are more susceptible), genetics, improper nutrition, excessive physical activity or strain, and certain anatomical factors such as long backs or short legs. 

These factors can contribute to the degeneration or weakening of the discs, making them more prone to bulging or rupture. Predisposed breeds include Dachshunds, Poodles, Shih Tzus, Doberman Pinschers, Pekingese, etc. They are susceptible to IVDD.

Are the signs of cervical disc disease always as sudden as what happened to my dog? Are the signs always the same?

The signs of cervical disc disease can vary in their onset, ranging from sudden and acute to gradual and progressive.

 The specific signs can also differ among dogs, but common signs include neck pain, reluctance to move the neck, sensitivity to touch, changes in posture, and potential neurological symptoms such as weakness or loss of coordination. A neurologic exam will confirm this.

‍What are some back and neck pain treatment options for dogs‍‍?

To treat back and neck pain in dogs may need rest, pain medication (e.g., NSAIDs), muscle relaxant meds, physical therapy and rehabilitation, weight management, and in extreme cases, surgery to address the underlying cause of the severe pain. 

The specific Therapy Approach will depend on the cause, severity, and individual needs of the dog.

Conclusion – Canine Disc Disease Neck Pain

Pinched nerves or cervical disc disease in a dog’s neck point can be a painful and debilitating condition that requires prompt attention and proper therapy. 

Dogs may experience various signs, including neck pain, stiffness, restricted movement, and sensitivity to touch. While there can be different causes, such as trauma, degenerative conditions, or anatomical abnormalities, early diagnosis, and intervention are crucial for good quality of life. 

Therapy may include medication, rest, physical therapy, and, in extreme cases, surgical intervention. Seeking veterinary care and following their guidance can help alleviate the dog’s discomfort and improve their quality of life. With proper care and management, dogs with pinched nerves in their neck can experience relief and regain their normal range of motion.

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