Is Your Senior German Shepherd Hurting? It Could Be Degenerative Disk Disease.

Updated: Apr 10

German Shepherds of all ages can suffer from degenerative disk disease (DDD), but the condition is more common in senior German Shepherds. DDD is the result of aging and wear on the spinal disks. As they get older, these disks (or cushions between the vertebrae break down, harden, and shrink in size, causing pain to shoot up into your dog's neck or back. Symptoms can include pain, loss of mobility, and even paralysis. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to help alleviate symptoms or stop the progression of the disease altogether. In this blog post, we discuss symptoms and treatment for degenerative disk disease and tips on preventing it if possible.

What is DDD:

Degenerative disc disease is caused by a deterioration of the outer part of the disc, which then eventually results in a disc rupture or herniation. This can happen to any disc in the spine, and symptoms will differ depending on where the rupture or herniation is located in the spine. Typically a rupture will happen when your fur friend tries to jump down off of the bed or sofa, which may not have been a big deal for him in the past, but now that the discs have weakened, even a small jump becomes a big deal.

What are the symptoms of DDD in Dogs:

(Note. Symptoms may be sudden or gradual)

  • Pain

  • Nerve damage

  • Rear legs knuckling under when walking

  • Weakening in the back end

  • Limp tail

  • Urinary or fecal incontinence

  • Trembling legs

  • Rear legs cross over when walking

  • Loss of mobility

  • paralysis

Treatment Options for DDD

If your senior German Shepherd is exhibiting any of the symptoms above, he should be taken to a trusted veterinarian to be examined immediately to ensure the best possible outcome. Once your fur friend is under veterinary care, he will undergo a neurological exam and most likely need an X-ray and possibly an MRI to determine the location of the disc(s) causing the problem.

Treatment may include one or a combination of the following:

  • Anti Inflammatory Medication (NSAIDs): To help reduce swelling in mild to moderate DDD.