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Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) In Dogs: Causes And Treatment

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) In Dogs: Causes And Treatment

Although surgery isn't always required to address intervertebral disc disease, it can be the best option for many dogs. IVDD affects a dog's ability to walk, and today our Concord vet team discusses more regarding surgery and other treatment options for dogs with IVDD.

The Intervertebral Disc

The intervertebral disc is a fibrous ring of tissue containing a jelly-like inner substance. These discs give the spine flexibility and help to cushion the load to the spine whenever your dog is actively moving around, running or jumping.

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a condition related to aging and is a gradual degenerative process that affects the spinal cord of the dog over a period of time, often undetected. This condition is otherwise described as a ruptured, slipped, bulging or herniated disk and may occur anywhere in your dog's back or neck.

Dogs of any breed can suffer from IVDD, but it is most often seen in Beagles, Dachshunds, Pekingese, Shih Tzus, and Basset Hounds.

Reasons For IVDD In Dogs

As IVDD progresses, the shock-absorbing discs located between your dog's vertebrae gradually begin to harden until they are unable to cushion the vertebrae properly. After a while, these  hardened discs may go on to bulge and compress the spinal cord.

Often, a simple jump or poor landing can lead one or more of the hardened discs to burst and press into the nerves of the dog's spinal cord causing pain, possible nerve damage or even paralysis.

Non-Surgical Recovery From IVDD For Dogs 

If your dog has been diagnosed with IVDD but can still walk, non-surgical treatments are available to address pain and mobility issues. For dogs who have lost their ability to walk, emergency care (including surgery) is very likely  walk non-surgical treatments may be able to help your dog recover from IVDD. Dogs who have lost their ability to walk require emergency treatment which will likely include surgery.

Non-surgical treatments for IVDD aim to help relieve pain, get your dog walking again, and help restore lost bladder and bowel control (which can be caused by nerve damage associated with IVDD). Non-Surgical treatments for IVDD in dogs include:

  • Strict Crate-Rest - Your dog will need to be strictly confined to a small room or crate for at least 4 weeks in order to give the dog's body sufficient time to try and mend the damage.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications - Anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce pain and swelling. These meds are used in conjunction with restricted activity and crate-rest.
  • Diet - Your vet will carefully calculate the precise number of calories required by your pet in order to manage weight and help to prevent added pressure on your dog's injured spine.
  • Physical Rehabilitation (Physical Therapy) - Rehab can work wonders for pets suffering from mild-moderate cases of IVDD, as well as those recovering from surgery. Your vet can recommend a qualified rehabilitation practitioner to help your dog recover from IVDD.

Surgical Options For Dogs With IVDD

Surgery may help to restore your dog's capacity to walk, reduce inflammation and pain, and prevent further disc problems. IVDD surgery is considered the best (occasionally the only) treatment for dogs suffering from severe IVDD.

The goal of IVDD surgery to remove the damaged or diseased intervertebral disk material in order to relieve the pressure on your dog's spinal cord, restore normal blood flow, and stop future disc problems. 

There are a number of different IVDD surgeries including hemilaminectomy, laminectomy, fenestration, and ventral slot. Which surgery will be used to treat your dog will largely depend upon the location of the diseased disc. For some dogs, usually large-breed dogs, a vertebral stabilization (fusion) procedure may be recommended. 

Recovery Rates For Dogs After IVDD Surgery

Surgery is typically very successful. Outcomes are most successful in dogs that have not lost their ability to walk.

If IVDD surgery is not successful in returning your dog's ability to move normally, a dog wheelchair can help your pup to enjoy a happy and active life even while living with IVDD.

Recovery from IVDD surgery requires 6 - 8 weeks of restricted activity combined with medications to help manage pain and swelling. In many cases, physical rehabilitation is recommended to help dogs recovering from IVDD rebuild strength and stability.

Humane Euthanasia For Dogs With Severe IVDD

If your dog has been diagnosed with severe IVDD, you're probably facing some very tough choices about treatment options for your beloved pet. Your vet will be sure to explain the appropriate treatment options, and the likely outcome for each. Sadly, caring for a dog that is recovering from IVDD can be both time-consuming and costly regardless of whether you opt for surgical or non-surgical treatment.

Every pet's case is unique, meaning your dog's prognosis will depend on a number of factors including your dog's age, the severity of your dog's condition, where on the spine the injury is located, and the length of time between symptoms appearing and treatment. Your vet will take the time to carefully and compassionately explain your dog's likelihood of recovery so that you are able to make an informed treatment decision.

If you are considering euthanasia for your dog following an IVDD diagnosis, speak to your vet openly and honestly. Veterinarians understand how much you love your pet and have been trained to help you make the best decision for you and your pet.

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.

At Four Corners Veterinary Hospital our vets understand that it can be alarming to learn that your dog may need surgery to address their IVDD. To learn more about treatment options, contact our Concord vet team today!

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