IVDD In Dogs: What You Need to Know

ivdd in dogs

It is most likely that you have never heard of IVDD in dogs before today.

It is a degenerative disease of the spinal cord that will affect some breeds more than others.

The spinal cord carries out an extremely important function, therefore this condition can be serious.

Sadly, as our pets begin to age, we may begin to see issues that arise due to their advancing years.

Knowing the symptoms of IVDD will allow you to be better prepared should this disease ever affect your dog.

What is IVDD in Dogs?

ivdd in dogs

Intervertebral Disc Disease, IVDD, is the most common spinal condition to affect dogs.

The intervertebral discs are what provide the cushioning between the vertebrae which allows for flexibility in the spine.

Fibrocartilage such as intervertebral discs act to stabilize, and absorb shocks to the spine.

Usually this disc is pliable and squishy allowing for the spine to extend, and move without any problems.

However, if this material, known as the nucleus pulposus, becomes hard and inflexible, instead of bending it can rupture.

If the disc material ruptures and affects the spinal canal it can lead to neurological deficits in your pet.

Having this disease can diminish your dog’s quality of life, or even ability to walk, if not dealt with properly.

Depending on the severity of a slipped disc it may not get better with just rest or physical therapy.

Are Certain Breeds More Likely to Have IVDD?

Perhaps through genetic predisposition certain dogs are prone to developing this disease over their lifetime.

Breeds such as Lhasa Apso, Poodle, Dachshund, Pekinese, Basset Hound, and Cocker Spaniels are inclined to get this disease.

Large breeds such as German Shepherds, Dobermans, Labradors also have a tendency to suffer from IVDD.  

Keep in mind that any type of dog can develop this debilitating disease for various reasons.

Normally seen in dogs between the age of three and seven, this condition can appear at any age.

It is always a good idea to provide your dog with access to professional veterinary care throughout its life.

Having regular check-ups will help you to stay on top of any health conditions your animal might suffer.

What are the Causes of IVDD in Dogs?

ivdd in dogs

Typically with age, the part of the disc that allows for cushioning the spine becomes more brittle.

Being one of the most important structures in the body the spinal cord must function well for good health.

As IVDD progresses in a dog it can cause disc herniation and spinal cord compression.

If the outer part of the disc wears away it will cause the inner part to leak out causing inflexibility.

Signs and Symptoms

You may notice that your dog has uncoordinated walking or is in pain when making certain movements.

There may be a reduction in activity undertaken by your pet due to the pain it is experiencing.

Perhaps you will experience that your dog whimpers or cries when moved or touched.

You could see signs that your dog is trying to reduce any moves that put pressure on their back.

Reduced appetite, muscle spasms, hunched back, or loss of control over defecation and urination.

Your dog may suddenly present with paralysis that comes and goes, or in worse cases is total in its hind legs.

How is IVDD Diagnosed?

ivdd in dogs

Your vet will be able to determine if your dog has IVDD through a thorough physical exam. 

A neurologist vet may be required to conduct further testing such as a CT scan, spinal radiographs or myelogram.

Once diagnosed, there are several options for your pet, from surgery to physical therapy.

Early on, when the disease is diagnosed, your vet might prescribe anti-inflammatory medication that will ease pain.

Can Dogs Recover from IVDD?

ivdd in dogs

Dogs can recover from IVDD, or at least reduce the most debilitating effects of this disease.

Bed rest, certain medications, along with a supportive outlook and dedication to your dog, recovery is possible. 

In some more serious cases your dog may require a mobility scooter after surgery to learn to walk again.

If surgery is required it will be to try and relieve the pressure on the spine, therefore reducing any pain.

Normally after surgery, it will take a period of time to determine how successful things were.

The process of regaining neurological functioning, reducing pain, and a return to walking can take several days to several weeks

Deciding to allow surgery on your pet is a big decision and one you do not want to take lightly.

As a dog owner you will be eager to make sure that your dog gets the best possible medical care.   

It can never hurt to get a second opinion if it looks like your dog might need to go under the knife.

Tips for Preventing IVDD in Dogs

ivdd in dogs
  • Try and reduce the amount of time your dog runs around chasing things such as balls or squirrels.
  • Do not play tug of war games with a pet who is having spinal cord issues.
  • Keep your dog from jumping up on and down off of things to limit jolts to their body.
  • Make sure that the dog in question maintains a healthy and appropriate weight.
  • Do not let your dog sit in a begging position on its hind legs.
  • Use a harness type restraint as opposed to a neck collar to avoid additional damage to the spinal cord.


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