Severe Neck Pain in a Dog: Andy’s Story

When your dog develops severe neck pain, the first obvious suspect is a mechanical issue in the spine, such as intervertebral disc disease or trauma. But what if it is not that?

The common causes of neck pain in dogs include:

  • congenital malformations
  • intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)
  • degenerative disease
  • muscle strain
  • trauma
  • tumors
  • inflammatory disease

Further information: Neck and Back Pain in Dogs

Severe Neck Pain in a Dog: Andy's Story

Andy’s story

Andy is a West Highland White Terrier—bright, active, and energetic with a distinct personality. He always makes the best of every day he gets to enjoy. Until his health challenges began, Andy was in good health.

Andy isn’t well

One morning, Andy woke up sore and stiff. Normally, he’d spring out of bed ready for the day’s adventures. But not this time. Andy didn’t leave his bed and showed no interest in going for his walk. Andy loved his walks. Something was amiss.

When Andy’s dad lifted him out of bed, it became clear Andy was in pain. He hobbled around hunched over. His dad called their veterinarian right away.

Veterinary visit

Quickly, the veterinarian determined Andy’s neck was painful—he suspected a strained muscle. Andy came home with pain medication, which seemed to be helping at first.

However, over the following days, Andy got worse. His pain returned with a vengeance. His neck was so painful that Andy would scream when his neck was turned a certain way.

Referral to a specialist

Andy got a referral to a university veterinary hospital for further investigation. The university veterinarians performed a battery of tests including CAT scans and spinal tap.

Andy was diagnosed with meningitis.

Meningitis in dogs

Meningitis is inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.

The potential causes of meningitis include infections or immune-mediated inflammatory response. It is even possible for some parasites, such are roundworms or heartworms to be the cause.

In dogs, immune-mediated meningitis is most common.

Further information: Meningitis in Dogs

Neck pain is one of the typical signs of meningitis in dogs. Many other symptoms can look like those of a slipped disc and include:

  • hunched posture
  • uncoordinated walk
  • neurological deficits
  • inability to walk
  • nystagmus

Further information: Recognizing the Signs of Meningitis in Dogs

Andy’s diagnosis

Andy was diagnosed with immune-mediated, also known as “steroid-responsive” meningitis.” Obviously, the treatment are steroids. Usually, dogs recover with high doses of the medication. Andy responded to the treatment well.

Steroid treatment side effects

Steroids are effective in reducing inflammation. That relief, however, comes at a price. There is a wide range of side effects. The most common side effects are ravenous appetite and excessive thirst.

Often, once their body responds, dogs can be gradually weaned off the medication. Andy, however, has to stay on long dose indefinitely because every time he got off the steroids the inflammation has returned.

His veterinarian determine what the minimum effective dose was and that’s what Andy has to continue to take.

Complications

Everything seemed great until Andy became ill again. This time, he lost interest in food and became miserable and lethargic. Could it be that his meningitis struck again?

Diagnosing Andy

His veterinarian examined Andy and drew blood for testing. The test results identified what Andy’s problem was; his blood sugar levels were way above normal. Andy had a new problem—diabetes.

Steroids can be effective in treatment of many life-threatening conditions. But they have their dark side. Long-term side effects can include consequences from immune suppression, such as increased susceptibility to infections and poor would healing. In some cases, the ongoing use of steroids can trigger diabetes.

Further information: The Function of Cortisol: What Happens In A Dog’s Body When It Goes Awry?

Typically, the diabetes can be reversed once the steroids are discontinued. But that was not an option for Andy.

Not only that Andy has to remain on the steroids for life, but he also needs to get insulin injections as well.

In closing

Between the treatment for his meningitis and insulin injections, Andy is feeling well, and he is as bright and active as he’s always been.

Would trying a different immunosuppressive drug help? They all come with their own set of side effects and the existing combo seems to be working well for Andy.

Source story:
Andy was Recovering from Meningitis when He Developed Diabetes

Related articles:
Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: The Big Picture

Further reading:
Neck and Back Pain in Dogs
Meningitis in Dogs

Categories: ConditionsDog health advocacyMeningitisNeck painReal-life Stories

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

6 Comments
  1. So many causes for concern. Thankfully the Vet was able to treat his condition, and he is back to his usual self. It’s too bad he has to remain on steroids and take insulin. Sweet little trooper!

  2. I’m glad Andy is feeling better! It’s always worrisome when our pups show symptoms and we’re not sure what’s causing them. Cheers to the vets that help make our pups well again!

  3. I’m glad that Andy is feeling better! I had no idea that dogs could get meningitis, or that steroids may lead to diabetes.

  4. Wow, this must have been a challenging time for Andy’s family. Diagnosing what the heck was wrong, then working out medication (and side effects!!!).

    I am so glad he is doing OK. Things like this are a real challenge for a family – and THIS is when you need a good vet to help and advise.

  5. Poor Andy! I was happy to read that he’s, at least, doing better with meds. It’s too bad the treatment for his meningitis triggered diabetes. My senior boy had a bout of neck pain last summer thanks to an off leash dog running into him and knocking him over. Luckily after a few weeks of meds and rest he was back to normal.

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