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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Neck Pain View In Cats

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

Dogs and cats often suffer neck pain from straining muscles or developing disk problems in the spine. This kind of neck pain is more common in dogs than in cats. Mastiffs, Doberman Pinschers, and other large breed dogs are most often affected.


Dogs and cats will hold their heads stiffly and won't want to lift their faces - they may look like they are shy or depressed and cry out with pain when they move the wrong way. Neck pain will often cause a pet to stop eating, since the pet will experience the pain when reaching for the food bowl.


There are serious diseases that cause neck pain. Animal who has neck pain lasting more than a few hours should be taken to the veterinarian the same day. Neck pain from disk problems isn't usually an emergency, but it will not improve without medical attention, and could get much worse to the point of paralysis.

Snakebites can cause neck pain, since dogs usually get bitten on the face or neck. in cats, neck pain commonly results from wounds that become infected.


If the pain is accompanied by a fever, get to the vet right away. While disk problems don't usually cause swelling, a traumatic neck injury (including snakebite) may swell, and infection usually causes a fever. Elderly dogs and cats who suffer neck pain from arthritis may just refuse to move.


  1. Remove the collar - Before doing anything else, take off your pet's collar. An injury to the neck may cause swelling, which in turn, can choke the pet.
  2. Carry your pet is there is a snakebite - Snakes often bite dogs on the neck, and the bite can be extremely painful. When you suspect that your dog or cat has been bitten by a snake, keep him from walking by carrying him to the car. Any type of exercise will speed the blood circulation and can spread the poison even faster. It is difficult to tell whether a snakebite is poisonous or not, so immediate medical attention is always needed.
  3. Apply a cold pack - On the way to the veterinarian, apply a cold pack to the snakebite wound (if this is the cause). This will help slow down the spread of the toxin and also helps relieve the pain. Rinse a clean washcloth in cold water and hold it against the injury, then place a cold pack, plastic bag of ice, or bag of frozen peas on top of the wet cloth.
  4. Give pain relief medication - If you are sure that you dog hasn't injured his neck and is only in pain because of stiffness from arthritis, you can give buffered aspirin like Bufferin on a temporary basis to relieve pain. The usual dose is 10 - 25mg per 2.2 pounds of body weight 2 - 3 ties per day. DO NOT GIVE ASPIRIN TO CATS.
For swelling on the side of a cat's neck - This is likely to be an abscess or cellulitis, usually from a bite wound. With cellulitis (a tissue inflammation), there may be little swelling but quite a bit of pain. A hot, wet compress on the painful area can help relieve the discomfort. Soak a clean washcloth with water as hot as you can stand it and apply it to the sore area.

If neck pain is caused by a muscle strain or disk disease - There won't be any visible swelling with these conditions. Take your pet to the veterinarian for diagnosis. He may prescribe cold packs. Apply them for 10 - 30 minutes several times a day for 2 - 3 days. You can then apply the hot packs as directed by your veterinarian.


There is no prevention for this condition.


Any time the spine is involved in neck pain, rest is a key factor. You will need to confine your pet for up to 6 weeks and keep him from jumping, running, or climbing until the problem area has fully healed.

When you take your dog out on a leash, use a harness that fits around his chest instead of a collar. When your dog tugs against a collar, it can cause more pain to the healing neck.

Keep pets who have neck pain caused by disk disease or strained muscles from jumping around, climbing up and down stairs, or leaping from high locations. These activities can make a minor neck injury worse and even lead to paralysis. Move your cat's food bowls, toys, litter box, and other possessions to floor level.

Neck pain in dogs is often relieved with prescription anti-inflammatory medications. You can hide the pills in a treat like peanut butter to make sure your dog eats it.

A cat with neck pain is more likely to get a prescription drug like butorphanol tartrate (Torbugesic) or even a skin patch with a drug like fentanyl (Duragesic) that is absorbed through the skin. The patch is applied to a shaved area of the cat's chest and can relieve pain for up to 3 days.

Bites from poisonous snakes often cause deep wounds when the area becomes infected or the poison literally digests the flesh. Deep abscesses also cause slow to heal wounds. In either case, you will need to keep the wound clean by flushing it with a steady stream of water from a shower head or hose. This water therapy also helps stimulate the flesh to regenerate and speeds up the healing process.

Show Sources & Contributors +


The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

1 Comment For "Neck Pain"



I had a beagle with what looked like a stiff neck or neck pain. He walked with his head hanging and as if he had pain moving his head --- also trembled in his front legs. We had many tests, blood work and could find nothing. The vet did a dental review and found two back teeth that were grey. I called my dentist and he said vets miss this but a grey tooth can indicate the tooth is dead and can cause lots of pain. The vet removed the two teeth and the next day it was amazing --- even after the oral surgery my beagle was much better and within about three days back to his full playful self. Ask you vet to conduct an oral exam and if any tooth is not looking normal you may consider taking your pet to a vet that specializes in dental work.

November 21, 2012 at 11:29PM  Sign In or Join to Comment