(Intervertebral disc disease)

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a spinal condition where the dics in the vertebrae (back or neck) can herniate or degenerate (sometimes described as a bulging or slipped disc). While this condition can happen in any breed of dog, it is most commonly seen in Dachshunds, French Bulldogs and other breeds with long backs and short legs like Lhasa Apso or Basset Hound.

What Is The Cause Of IVDD?

Degeneration in intervertebral discs causes IVDD. Degenerative changes lead to the gelatenous substance inside the disc to harden and becomes unable to act as a shock absorber between the vertebrae

In IVDD either the partial contents of the disc or the whole disc gets pushed upwards into the vertebral canal and presses on the spinal cord. This cause debilitation, pain and potential lasting damage to the spinal cord

In these cases often a simple jump or poor landing can lead to one or more of the harden discs to herniate

What are the signs my dog has IVDD?

There are two types of disc herniation seen in dogs: Hansen type 1 and Hansen type 2

Type 2 generally has less severe signs and symptoms and develops over a longer period of time, more likely to effect large breed dogs

Type 1 is more acute and more likely to effect  chondrodystrophic breeds

Symptoms of IVDD in dogs may include:

  • Paralysis
  • Abnormal walking
  • Unwillingness to jump
  • Pain and weakness in rear legs (lameness)
  • Crying out in pain
  • Anxious behavior
  • Hunched back or neck with tense muscles
  • Reduced appetite and activity level
  • Loss of bladder and/or bowel control (urinary and fecal incontinence) or unwillingness to posture to eliminate

Treating IVDD in Dogs

Depending on the severity of the damage to your dog’s spinal cord, treatment can range from conservative to surgical.

Conservative IVDD Treatment

Non surgical treatment usually includes strict cage rest, with drugs such as steroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories along with one or more types of pain control to reduce the swelling and pain. Laser treatment, Hydrotherapy and Physiotherapy. Some dogs can make a full recovery with conservative treatment when the condition is less severe. The recovery process can be long and requires a lot of commitment from the owner

Surgical Treatment for IVDD

A lot of cases are indicated for surgery and are treated at a specialist orthopaedic referral practice.

In these cases, emergency surgery is needed, removing a portion of the bony vertebrae over the spinal cord (laminectomy) to relieve pressure on the spinal cord.

IVDD is graded on a 1-5 scale based on the severity of symptoms.  Anywhere from 1-4 on the scale, and a patient who receives surgery should be expected to make a full recovery around 90% of the time.  This number plummets to 50% or 60% when operating on grade 5 cases of IVDD in dogs, and even that number presumes surgery occurred within 24 hours of grade 5 symptoms beginning, the number drops further when surgery is performed more than 24 hours after grade 5 symptoms start

Recovery and home care

While your dog recovers, you will need to keep them well-rested, control their pain, monitor their toileting habits and follow your vet’s instructions exactly.

Keep them clean - it’s important to keep your dog clean throughout their recovery. If your dog is incontinent, you will need to use absorbent bedding such as puppy training pads and give them regular bed baths with warm soapy water. Rinse away any soapy residues and dry your dog thoroughly afterwards. You will need to brush your dog if they are struggling to groom, and you may even want to consider trimming their coat if it becomes matted.

Comfortable bedding - a soft place to lie down will help your dog stay comfortable and stop pressure sores developing

Make sure they don’t slip - it’s important to make sure your dog doesn’t slip or fall when they are being taken out to go to the toilet. Stick to carpets where possible and put non-slip coverings over any hard floors they will be walking over. You might also want to consider using a sling or towel to help them get up, especially in the early stages

Supportive therapy - your vet will recommend additional treatments such as hydrotherapy and physiotherapy to help with your dog’s recovery

Weight - keeping your dog the right weight will reduce pressure on their spine. Talk to our team at Operation K9 regarding your dog’s weight to check they are in the right body condition. If necessary, we will be able to help you get your dog to lose weight without increasing their exercise

Returning to normality - once your dog has started to recover, your vet and/or physical therapist will create a plan to get them exercising again. Returning to exercise needs to be very gradual and controlled. It’s important to follow your vets instructions exactly and to contact them if have any problems or are unsure about any of the steps

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