Preventing Neck Injuries in Dogs

 And Helping Dogs Recover from Neck Injuries

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(link to the beginning of Article)  In its most severe clinical expression I see gross neurologic involvement that ranges from minimal loss of control and coordination (conscious proprioception) to frank paralysis.  A peculiar hallmark in these cases is that, often even before the injury that ultimately brings them to see me, pet owners will notice that their companions had been uncharacteristically resting with their heads hanging off of or over the edge of their dog bed, your couch, or bed.


Interestingly, for the most part the obvious causative injury or physical insult is usually not the primary reason a dog ends up in this state.  It’s a case of “an accident waiting to happen.”  Owners bring their injured companions to me reporting that their dog ran head first into something, or another larger dog blind-sided their pet at the dog park, or their dog lunged at another dog and came up violently short at the end of their lead.  I have even had cases where these symptoms arose following anesthesia (especially when the neck is not supported when transferring an anesthetized unconscious dog).  There is no question that these mild to severe presenting symptoms were provoked by the injurious incidences described during the initial consultation.  However, few pet owners realize their part in making their companions increasingly susceptible to this very injury over time.


With exceptions the majority of severe cases that I’ve treated in 35 years working with animals had a long history of strenuous and regular “tug-of-war” games with their owners or canine cohorts prior to the provocative incident and the onset of severe symptoms.  Dogs will frequently jerk violently and repeatedly on the tug as they endeavor to free the other end from their owner’s grasp.  Owners will often contribute to the injurious activity by adding their own variations, like yanking the tug from side to side, up and down, or perhaps holding their canine companion up off the ground to impress friends and neighbors.  As good a time as a dog appears to be having during these playful bouts, you would never suspect that with each vigorous episode they are compounding the damage to and further weakening the soft tissue supporting elements and compromising the structural integrity of their pet’s lower cervical spine.  So for everyone’s sake eliminate “tug-of-war” games entirely!


Finally, never leave a heavy choke chain on a dog on a continuous basis.  Some of the worst paralyzed pet cases I have treated over the years, I feel strongly were caused by lower neck instability induced by a heavy choke chain placing unrelenting downward weight and pressure on the vertebral joints of the lower neck.

Fortunately most of these cases retain deep pain sensation and despite the severity of the symptoms, often respond fairly quickly with conservative management. However one caveat, for Chiropractors or Vets who use the Activator, never fire an Activator or perform any kind of forceful manipulation in the lower C-spine in these cases for reasons that should be abundantly clear.



For clients please read the following


If I sent you to read this article your companion is suffering from this very condition and it is imperative for you to understand what you can do to help and not hinder the healing process. In truth the usual Chiropractic style of treatments will not correct this problem and can actually make things worse. Examinations where the doctor forcefully twists your companion's neck around to determine if they have neck pain must be absolutely avoided. Fortunately many years ago I discovered serendipitously how this condition can be detected and gently corrected. Unfortunately, this condition is so very susceptible to re-injury, at least early on in the treatment, that knowing what causes or exacerbates this condition is vital to your pet’s stable and complete recovery. The following activities must be assiduously avoided to ensure your Pet's return to a pain free existence:


  • Avoid any acute bending of you pet’s neck especially in extension (looking straight up). So, no sitting in the kitchen at your feet looking up, waiting for UFFO’s, unidentified falling food objects. No extending the head back to push pills down their throat. Try covering their Meds with that sticky white goat cheese and coax them to eat the pills this way without pulling their chin up.
  • No toys or chew bones where they hold one end with their paws and pull at the other end with their teeth. So, things like pulling the polyester stuffing out of fuzzy toys searching for the squeaker or pulling at rawhide chew bones is not allowed.
  • Avoid holding your pet’s head or neck while they strain to pull away or move their head against your restraint. This could include restraint to trim nails, clean ears, or pill them.
  • No trips to the groomers until their neck is more stable.
  • No roughhousing or play fighting with other pets.
  • No jumping on and off couches or beds.
  • Don’t go to dog parks. Impacts and injuries are common.
  • Don’t let them go through doggy doors. Hitting the doggy door with their nose and pushing through multiple times per day takes its toll on this condition.
  • No fence  fighting, squirrel or cat chasing.
  • Avoid neck collars altogether, use a harness. This especially if they are the type to pull you around the block by their neck or lunge at other animals.
  • No playing fetch, no ball pushing (soccer ball etc) .
  • No digging or burying motions with their muzzle.
  • No burrowing under covers or blankets. Pushing their way under blankets with their head puts undue strain on the neck.
  • Never leave a heavy choke chain on your dog on a continuous basis as this puts undue downward stress on the spine.
  • No hard patting or firm petting on top of their head.
  • No crating pets in crates where they have to hold head lower than natural while standing or they can’t turn around easily.
  • Avoid procedures requiring anesthesia if possible. If you can’t, please ask your Vet to have someone support your pet’s head and neck in a neutral position. This is especially important when moving them while unconscious to prevent their head and neck from flopping and hanging down like “al dente” spaghetti as they are lifted and carried.
  • Don’t let them lay flat with their head flat on the floor or flat dog bed.  Get a bed with a bolster (like a donut bed) so that they hang their head on or over it to relieve the neck strain and stress.
  • Lastly, and for reasons that should be obvious, absolutely no examinations of the neck that involve twisting and cranking the head and neck to the extremes of the natural ranges of motion. I have treated numerous cases that were made dramatically worse following such examinations!



© 2018 Dr KellyThompson,DC all rights reserved

371 1st St, Los Altos, CA 94022, and 412 S Adams St, #118, Fredericksburg, Tx 78624 Phone: CA: 650-218-5512 and TX: 830-992-0987

© 2018, Chiropractor for Animals, Dr KellyThompson,DC all rights reserved

371 1st St, Los Altos, CA 94022, and 412 S Adams St, #118, Fredericksburg, Tx 78624 Phone: CA: 650-218-5512 and TX: 830-992-0987