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Mapping a treatment for canine back pain

By Kelley Weir

For some of us, back pain is the bane of our existence. It turns out we are in good company—with dogs. Our four-legged friends are not immune to back pain either.

While some dogs, like Dachshunds, seem to be prone to chronic back problems because of their body type, others experience back pain associated with their jobs. Working dogs used for such strenuous tasks as bomb detection, tracking, herding and police work have a higher incidence of back injuries than the usual pet. Back problems in pets most often occur in older animals; however, in working dogs, back problems frequently occur in young or middle-aged animals, leading to early retirement.

Improved methods for early detection and treatment of lower back pain could help minimize premature retirement for these dogs. Treatments previously developed for humans and horses may hold promise. Ultrasound-guided injection of antiinflammatory medication into the sacroiliac joints (the joints connecting the pelvis to the spine) is an established method for relieving lower back pain in human and equine athletes, but this method, and specifically the best placement of the needle, needs to be assessed in dogs.

With funding from Morris Animal Foundation, researchers from Virginia Tech set out to map the sacroiliac joints and locate the best points for needle entry so that dogs could be treated using ultrasound-guided injections.

“We found that placing a needle into the entrance to the joint using ultrasound guidance was not difficult,” says lead investigator Dr. Jeryl Jones. “However, advancing the needle to the target depth was challenging in some dogs.”

Dr. Jones’s team developed a detailed atlas describing the normal anatomy of the canine sacroiliac joint and surrounding structures and will post it on the Internet for use by veterinarians, students and researchers worldwide.

Additional studies are needed to further test the safety and effectiveness of this promising new technique, but this type of treatment could go a long way toward alleviating pain in pet dogs and keeping working dogs on the job.

Related Links

Developing a Technique for Ultrasound-Guided Injection of the Canine Sacroiliac Joint
Helping Pets Age Gracefully


Posted by MAFon February 22, 2012.

Categories: Animal health, Animal studies, Dog health

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