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InasPawprints Paws Button Virtuoso_Vet_Baum_answers_your_questions_on_cat,_dog,_turtle,_and_other_pets'

Welcome to our series from the Wonderful Dr. Barry Baum, Chief of Staff at Center-Sinai Animal Hospital in Los Angeles.  If you have a question for our Virtuoso Vet, he'd love to see it.  And he will answer all that he can.  Just use the contact info that follows below, beneath the column.  Please note: If you feel the condition of your pet is critical, Dr. Baum urges you to contact your local vet ASAP!

For previous questions and answers, see the buttons under this week's article.




Back pain is a common affliction in both dogs and cats.  In some instances the discomfort is caused by something as simple as a strained muscle, often the result of vigorous jumping and twisting.  However, in other cases the pain may be associated with permanent injuries which can cause repeated bouts of discomfort.  The key to understanding back problems lies in the knowledge of how discs function.

The bones of the spinal column (vertebrae) are separated from each other by pad-like structures called discs.  These pads resemble vitamin e capsules; they have a tough elastic exterior  that surrounds a soft, fluid center.  The spinal cord runs just over the disc in a bony tunnel through the vertebrae.  When something happens to weaken the elastic exterior of the disc, the shape becomes altered and a bulge occurs, much like the bubble you would see in an inner tube of a tire.  When the bulge pushes upward and into the bony tunnel containing the spinal cord, an increase in pressure occurs and the actual spinal cord starts getting squeezed; hence the term, pinched nerve.  In more severe conditions, the bubble can actually rupture and release the fluid contents of the disc directly into the tunnel.  Not only does this disc material take up space in the tunnel, but it also causes a severe inflammation, which further squeezes the spinal cord.  The severity of symptoms is related to the degree of spinal cord compression.  Mild bulging of the disc produces pain but as the pressure in the tunnel increases numbness and weakness become apparent and in the most extreme cases, total paralysis can ensue. A less severe problem known as spondylitis can also affect the back.  Also known as spinal arthritis, this condition occurs when there is a lack of stability between adjacent vertebrae, and the body produces extra bone in an attempt to unite the unstable bones.  Typically, symptoms of stiffness and difficulty getting up occur with this condition.

In order to diagnose the problem, x-rays of the spinal column need to be taken.  Very often a sedative will need to be given prior to the films to insure adequate muscle relaxation, which will allow an accurate evaluation of the disc spaces.  In some cases, a myelogram (an x-ray combined with an injection of dye around the spinal cord) will need to be done to pinpoint the exact location of a problem prior to surgery.

Treatment regimens can vary for the above conditions, varying from mild analgesic medication such as buffered aspirin to anti-inflammatory drugs such as Prednisone.  In severe cases, surgery may be the only solution.  Consult with your local veterinarian for the advice that will benefit your pet.

To find out what others have asked, click our Critter Query archives button:

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Dr. Baum will answer as many of your questions as possible. 
For Your Pet's Health: Please contact your local vet if you feel your pet is having an emergency to insure getting attention in time to meet his/her needs.

*We never sell your private information, and post only with your permission, to help other visitors with similar questions. Please see privacy policy pertaining to and

If you are lucky enough to live in Los Angeles when you need a really good vet, you can call
to set up an appointment with Dr. Baum or another of the highly skilled staff at
Center-Sinai Veterinary Hospital.  The number is 310-559-3770 .

Check out the new site! Your questions and answers appear there with your permission, with a link on our site, too, along with more pet care information and special features! Just close the window after visiting, or hit your browser's back button to return to InasPawprints.

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Animation Website and Photo 2003 Ina Hillebrandt. Last updated: April 2012. All rights reserved.