The Intervertebral Disc
The intervertebral disc is a ring of fibrous tissue with a jelly-like inner substance that plays an important role as part of your dog's spine. Intervertebral discs give the spine flexibility and help to cushion the vertebrae whenever your dog is actively moving, running or jumping.
Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD)
Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) may be described by your vet as a ruptured, slipped, bulging or herniated disk in your dog's back or neck. While this condition can happen in any breed of dog, it is most commonly seen in dachshunds, pekingese, shih tzus, basset hounds and beagles.
Causes of IVDD in Dogs
Intervertebral Disc Disease is a gradual, age-related, degenerative process that affects the spinal cord of the dog over a period of time.
IVDD occurs when the shock absorbing discs between your dog's vertebrae gradually begin to harden until they are no longer able to cushion the vertebrae normally. The hardened discs often go on to bulge and compress the spinal cord, in many cases 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 to one or more of the hardened discs bursting and pressing into the nerves of the dog's spinal cord causing pain, nerve damage or even paralysis.
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 their ability to walk, urgent emergency treatment is required, (which will likely include surgery).
Non-surgical treatment for IVDD
Non-surgical treatment for IVDD (also called conservative treatment or IVDD management) aims at relieving your pup's pain and discomfort, getting your pet standing and walking again, and restoring lost bladder and bowel control. Non-Surgical treatments for IVDD in dogs include strict crate-rest, anti-inflammatory medications, dietary care (managing your dog's weight to relieve pressure on their back), and physical rehabilitation (physical therapy for dogs).
Surgery for Dogs with IVDD
In severe cases, when the dog has lost their ability to walk, the best and only treatment may be surgery. The goal of IVDD surgery is to remove the diseased intervertebral disk material in order to relieve the pressure on the dog's spinal cord. Relieving the pressure on your pet's spinal cord can help to restore normal blood flow, and prevent disc problems in the future.
There are a number of different surgeries which may be used alone or together to treat dogs with IVDD. The surgery recommended for your pup will largely depend upon the location of the diseased disc. IVDD surgeries include: hemilaminectomy, laminectomy, fenestration and ventral slot. For some dogs, a vertebral stabilization (fusion) procedure may also be recommended, especially larger breeds.
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.
Expect recovery from IVDD surgery to take about 6 - 8 weeks. While the spine is healing, your pet will require medications to help with pain management and swelling, and you will need to restrict your dog's activity to very low levels. Your vet may also recommend physical rehabilitation (physical therapy for dogs) to help your pup recover.
If IVDD surgery is not successful in restoring your dog's mobility, a doggie wheelchair can help your pup to enjoy a happy and active life while living with Intervertebral Disc Disease.
Should I consider euthanasia for my dog with severe IVDD?
Every dog is unique, as such, your pet's prognosis will depend upon a number of different factors. Your vet will carefully and compassionately explain your dog's likelihood of recovery from IVDD 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. Veterinary professionals have been trained to help you make the best decision for you and your dog.
If your dog is showing signs of IVDD contact Thomasville Veterinary Hospital Urgent Care + Surgery right away to book an appointment, or visit your nearest emergency veterinary clinic for urgent care.
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