Torticollis, or cervical dystocia (also called wryneck), in dogs has many causes, from birth injury to nerve disease, but once the cause has been determined and eliminated, if possible, treatment for residual muscle spasm is generally much the same. Both home and professional therapies can be highly effective.
Observe where and how your dog sleeps. Make sure his bed allows him to stretch out full-length with his head and neck extended—sleeping curled up in a basket or kennel can cause stiff muscles. He should sleep in a spot that is neither too warm nor too cold, and is free of drafts.
Consult a vet about dietary supplements. The balance between calcium and potassium can affect muscle action, as can trace minerals such as zinc. Other nutritional supplements, such as B-complex vitamins and vitamin E, may be useful.
Study the muscular anatomy of your dog's neck and learn which muscles control its movements. Find a professional animal—or human—massage therapist and learn how to stimulate and relax tense muscles and increase blood circulation to the affected muscles.
Acupuncture involves sticking very fine needles into the skin at specific locations to stimulate nerves and muscles. Because it creates breaks in the skin and therefore carries a risk of infection, this practice is best left to licensed professionals. It is normally not painful, and after the first treatment many dogs require no restraint and even seem to enjoy it. Some vets can perform acupuncture themselves, while others refer patients to a specialist.
Medication therapy for torticollis can range from oral pain relievers in pill form to injections of botulism toxin—the same stuff used to treat facial wrinkles in people. Your vet may recommend aspirin or ibuprofen to ease any discomfort in the spasmodic neck muscles. In difficult cases, he may inject Botox or Myobloc (two forms of botulism toxin) to release the neck muscles temporarily and stop them from pulling the dog's head to one side. Once again, this is strictly a professional's job, but it requires home observation and followup.
- french bull dog image by Trina Mole from Fotolia.com