A concerned reader asks Dr Platzhund about preventing calcified disc problems in dogs and the cost of surgery if the incident had to occur.
Q: I’ve recently acquired a Yorkshire terrier. I’m concerned because my cousin has the same type of dog and a Dachshund. The Dachshund has already had a spinal operation for calcified discs and the Yorkie that’s too old for surgery has a spastic left front leg and weak left hind leg from a disc problem. How can I prevent this and the expense of surgery?
A: The first step you must take is to join a reputable pet medical aid or insurance. Most of these small breeds are accommodated indoors where the environment is more conducive to injury than outdoors. It’s difficult for most people to understand that dogs prefer to be outdoors, where they can search, sniff, hunt, run and play. Inside the house these small breeds are allowed to jump on and off furniture, sprint up and down stairs, slip on laminated and tiled floors, and then the tears arrive when the dog slips a disc or tears its knee ligaments and has to undergo surgery. The correct, responsible and healthy approach is to subscribe to puppy socialisation and basic obedience training, where you’ll learn to teach your dog to remain on the ground, not sleep on the bed and avoid the height advantage of couches, chairs and beds. Once the dog is lead-trained it will learn to stay on the floor. In your absence from the home the pup must be restricted to a fenced area outdoors, to keep him from climbing on the furniture. Although genetics and anatomical formation do play a role in predisposition to injury, owner management is incredibly important.