Intervertebral disk disease—IVDD for short—is a condition that impacts your dog's spinal cord, resulting in painful mobility issues. In this post, our Everett vets discuss the causes and signs if IVDD in dogs, and how surgery can be used to treat the condition.
Intervertebral Disk Disease - IVDD
Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) in dogs is a painful condition that can also be described as a ruptured, slipped, bulging, or herniated disk. This condition is most commonly seen in breeds with longer spines such as beagles, dachshunds, Pekingese, Shih Tzus, basset hounds, or American cocker spaniels, but can still occur in dogs of any breed.
This condition will likely require surgery to be repaired
Causes of IVDD in Dogs
IVDD is an age-related, gradual degenerative process that affects the spinal cord of the dog over time, often undetected. Even with yearly wellness exams, your vet may not detect any signs of IVDD until your dog's hardened disk or disks become ruptured and painful symptoms become apparent. If your dog has IVDD something as simple as an everyday jump up onto the sofa could damage a disk that has been weakened by the condition and trigger acute and painful symptoms.
IVDD occurs when the shock-absorbing disks between your dog's vertebrae gradually begin to harden until they are unable to cushion the vertebrae properly. The hardened disks will typically go on to bulge and compress the spinal cord, often damaging the dog's nerve impulses such as those that control bladder and bowel control. In other cases, a simple jump or poor landing can lead one or more of the hardened disks to burst and press into the nerves of the dog's spinal cord causing pain, possible nerve damage, or even paralysis.
Symptoms of IVDD in Dogs
IVDD can develop in any of the disks in your dog's spine and symptoms of this condition will depend upon which part of the spine is affected, and how severe the damage is. Symptoms of IVDD can come on gradually but are equally likely to appear suddenly. If your dog is displaying any of the following symptoms seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
IVDD can be very painful for dogs and early treatment is essential for preventing the condition from becoming more severe or causing irreversible damage to your dog's spine. If you notice any of the following IVDD symptoms seek veterinary care for your dog right away.
- Pain in the neck or back region
- Unwillingness or inability to walk
- Difficulty urinating and/or defecating
- Shaking or trembling (usually in response to pain)
- Knuckling on paws
Treatment for IVDD in Dogs
Can a dog recover from IVDD without surgery? If your pup has IVDD but is still able to walk non-surgical treatments may be able to help your pet recover from IVDD. On the other hand, if your dog has a severe case of IVDD and has lost its ability to walk, urgent emergency treatment is required, (which will likely include surgery).
Non-surgical treatment for IVDD
The goal of non-surgical IVDD treatment (also known as conservative treatment or IVDD management) is to relieve your dog's pain and discomfort, get him up and walking again, and regain bladder and bowel control. Crate rest, anti-inflammatory medications, dietary management (managing your dog's weight to relieve pressure on their back), and physical rehabilitation are all non-surgical treatments for IVDD in dogs (physical therapy for dogs).
Surgery for Dogs with IVDD
Surgery is generally considered to be the best and only treatment option for dogs who have lost their ability to walk. The goal of IVDD surgery is to remove diseased intervertebral disk material from the dog's spine to relieve pressure on the spinal cord. Relieving pressure on your pet's spinal cord can aid in the restoration of normal blood flow and the prevention of future disc problems.
There are a variety of surgeries that can be used alone or in combination to treat dogs with IVDD. The surgery that is recommended for your dog will be based on where the diseased disc is located. Hemilaminectomy, laminectomy, fenestration, and ventral slots are some of the IVDD surgeries. A vertebral stabilization (fusion) procedure may be recommended for some dogs, particularly larger breeds.
Speak to your vet regarding the cost of IVDD surgery. They will provide you with a good-faith estimate.
IVDD Surgery Success Rates
Surgery for dogs with IVDD is very successful in the majority of cases. Outcomes are most successful in dogs that have not lost their ability to walk.
In dogs that have had ongoing symptoms of IVDD, atrophy of the spinal cord can occur and lead to less successful outcomes.
It will take 6 to 8 weeks for you to recover from IVDD surgery. Your dog will need medications to help with pain and swelling while the spine heals, and you will need to limit your dog's activity to very low levels. Physical rehabilitation (physical therapy for dogs) may be recommended by your veterinarian to aid your dog's recovery.
If IVDD surgery is not successful in restoring your dog's mobility, a doggie wheelchair can help your pup enjoy a happy and active life while living with Intervertebral Disc Disease.
Should I consider euthanasia for my dog with severe IVDD?
Because every dog is different, the prognosis of your pet will be determined by a variety of factors. Your veterinarian will carefully and compassionately explain the chances of your dog recovering from IVDD so you can make an informed treatment decision.
If you're thinking about euthanasia for your dog after an IVDD diagnosis, talk to your vet about it. Veterinarians have been specially trained to assist you in making the best decision for you and your dog.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.