What is Intervertebral Disc Disease?

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a condition where the cushioning discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column either bulge or burst (herniate) into the spinal cord space. These discs then press on the nerves running through the spinal cord causing pain, nerve damage, and even paralysis.

IVDD encompasses: Herniated Disc, Bulging Disc, Ruptured Disc, Disease, Slipped Disc, Disc Extrusion

What types of dogs does it affect?

IVDD is most common in breeds that have flat, long backs such as the Dachshund, Beagle, Basset Hound, and Shih Tzu. However, IVDD can affect any pure-breed, designer breed, or all American (mutt) at any age during an activity or at rest.

What are the symptoms?

Unwillingness to jump
Pain and weakness in rear legs (lameness)
Crying out in pain
Anxious behavior
Muscle spasms over back or neck
Hunched back or neck with tense muscles
Reduced appetite and activity level
Loss of bladder and/or bowel control (urinary and fecal incontinence, respectively)

What are the Five Grades of IVDD?

Grade 1) Pain Only–these dogs are able to walk normally, but exhibit signs of pain including reluctance to move, reluctance to jump, shivering, crying, muscle spasms, and/or a tense abdomen.

Grade 2) Ambulatory Paraparesis (partial paralysis of lower limbs) – These dogs are able to walk, but are weak and wobbly in the rear legs. They may cross their back legs when walking, splay out, knuckle over or stumble in their back legs.

Grade 3) Non-Ambulatory Paraparesis (partial paralysis of lower limbs) –These dogs are still able to move their legs and wag their tails, but are not strong enough to support their own weight and walk.

Grade 4)  Paraplegia–These dogs have no voluntary movement in the rear legs.

Grade 5) Paraplegia with Absent Nociception (no ‘deep pain’)–in addition to being unable to move the back legs, they are unable to feel their back legs.

FYI- Ringo was a Grade 5

What kind of treatment is there?

*If your dog is experiencing any symptoms listed above it is recommended to bring your dog to your veterinarian immediately.*

Possible courses of treatment include steroids, NSAIDs, physical/holistic therapy, and surgery. The grade of injury will determine the course of treatment.

What is the prognosis?

The prognosis varies per dog/per injury.  It is imperative to bring your dog to the vet immediately as the symptoms can progress rapidly. If surgery is required, there is a 12-24-hour window in which it is most successful.

What type of therapy is available?

Physical Therapy, Acupuncture, Laser Light Therapy, Swimming, i-Therm, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, Body Conditioning.

Chiropractic procedures are NOT recommended. Dogs suspected of having a form of IVDD may also exhibit neurologic deficits.  Neurologic deficits indicate that the nerve fibers in the spinal cord are not working correctly.  The severity of the neurologic deficits does not indicate the degree of spinal cord compression.  Therefore, the risk with performing a chiropractic adjustment on these dogs is that it could further compress the spinal cord and possibly require emergency surgery.

*The implementation for each of these therapies may vary based on the need and severity of the injury. Acupuncture, laser light therapy and i-Therm can be implemented immediately. *

Approved by Dr. Eve Pugh DVM, CVA, CCRP



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