I have an elderly Cairn Terrier called Jimmy. He has had a few problems lately with his back, which we cannot get on top of completely. He has had some X-rays that do not show anything, but what we do know is that his back goes into spasm, and it becomes quite painful and he finds it difficult to lie down and get up, especially after rest. In fact, sometimes his back looks quite arched.

We have tried all the regular pain products, but my feeling is that these drugs do not work that well for him. Can you suggest any other ways of helping him?

Tim Couzens advises…

It’s good that you have had some investigations carried out to rule out problems such as arthritis or prolapsed discs, so it sounds as if the problem may be soft-tissue related and that his muscles are going into spasm, hence the pain and arching of the back. This could be the result of just getting older, or perhaps even from an old injury, such as a tumble with another dog, or falling from a car seat after sudden braking.

My initial thoughts are to ask to be referred to a chiropractor to check if Jimmy’s spine and limbs are all correctly aligned. An animal osteopath should also be able to help with this.

Treatment-wise, I tend to find that herbal medicine is particularly useful for helping with back spasms. Effective herbs include valerian, Jamaican dogwood and cramp bark, which in combination will relieve muscle tension and reduce the spasm and accompanying pain.

In order to work out exactly what to do, it would be a good idea to arrange to see a veterinary herbalist. For details of the British Association of Veterinary Herbalists, visit


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