ivdd in dogs

Unlocking the Key to IVDD in Dogs: Expert Insights and Care Strategies

As cherished members of our families, our canine companions bring boundless joy into our lives. However, just like humans, dogs can also face health challenges that require our attention and care.

One such condition that often affects our four-legged friends is Intervertebral Disc Disease, commonly referred to as IVDD.

This ailment, which involves the spinal cord and intervertebral discs, can lead to discomfort and mobility issues for our beloved pets.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of IVDD in dogs, exploring its causes, symptoms, diagnostic procedures, treatment options, and preventative measures.

Whether you’re a concerned dog owner or simply interested in understanding more about canine health, join us as we unravel the complexities of IVDD and empower ourselves to provide the best possible care for our furry companions.

What is a disc, and what is its purpose?

Intervertebral discs are an essential component of the spinal column that serves several important functions.

These discs, located between the vertebrae (the bones of the spine), play a crucial role in supporting and facilitating the movement of the spine.

The primary purpose of intervertebral discs includes:

  • Shock Absorption: Intervertebral discs act as shock absorbers, cushioning the impact and stress that the spine experiences during everyday activities like running, jumping, and walking.
  • Flexibility: The discs provide flexibility to the spine, enabling various movements such as bending, twisting, and stretching.
  • Protection: They protect the spinal cord by acting as a barrier between the bony vertebrae and the delicate spinal cord and spinal nerves.
  • Load Distribution: The discs distribute the weight and load placed on the spine evenly, preventing excessive pressure on any specific area.
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The Role of Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

Unfortunately, intervertebral discs can be prone to various issues, and one of the most common problems is Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD).

This condition can occur due to factors such as age-related disc degeneration, trauma, or genetics, and it often leads to the herniation or bulging of the disc material.

IVDD can have serious consequences as it directly affects the spinal cord and nerves.

  • Spinal Cord Compression: Herniated or bulging discs can compress the spinal cord or spinal nerves, causing pain, discomfort, and various neurological symptoms.
  • Clinical Signs: Dogs with IVDD may exhibit clinical signs such as difficulty walking, reluctance to move, hunched back, trembling, and even paralysis. The severity of the symptoms depends on the location and extent of the disc herniation.
  • Pain and Discomfort: IVDD can result in severe pain and discomfort for the affected dog, often requiring pain medication and medical intervention.

IVDD in Dogs: Common Manifestations

IVDD is particularly prevalent in certain breeds, especially small or large breed dogs with longer spines.

Common manifestations of IVDD include:

  • Slipped Disc: Also known as a herniated disc, this occurs when the inner material of the disc protrudes out, compressing the spinal cord and nerves.
  • Cervical Disc Disease: When the condition affects the neck region, it’s known as cervical disc disease, which can lead to neck pain and mobility issues.
  • Neurological Symptoms: Depending on the location of the disc herniation, dogs may experience weakness, loss of coordination, and in severe cases, complete paralysis.

Types of Intervertebral Disc Disease

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) encompasses a spectrum of spinal conditions that involve the intervertebral discs and can impact dogs of all sizes and breeds.

Depending on the location of the affected disc and the severity of the condition, IVDD can be categorized into two main types:

  1. Hansen Type I
  2. Hansen Type II

Let’s delve into the characteristics and differences between these two types:

1. Hansen Type I IVDD – Acute Disc Extrusion

Hansen Type I IVDD, also known as acute disc extrusion, typically affects younger dogs and is characterized by a sudden and severe herniation of the disc’s inner material.

This type of IVDD often leads to more dramatic and rapid onset of symptoms.

Key features include:

  • Rapid Onset: Dogs may suddenly exhibit signs of pain, paralysis, and decreased or lost ability to use their limbs.
  • Chondroid Degeneration: The inner part of the disc becomes hardened, and when it ruptures, it can compress the spinal cord, causing acute neurological symptoms.
  • Location: Acute disc extrusion commonly occurs in the mid-back region (thoracic spine) and can lead to rear limb paralysis.
  • Severity: This type of IVDD is considered a medical emergency due to the sudden and severe nature of its symptoms.
dog, cute, animal

2. Hansen Type II IVDD – Chronic Disc Degeneration

Hansen Type II IVDD, also known as chronic disc degeneration, tends to affect older dogs and is characterized by a gradual degeneration of the disc material over time.

This type of IVDD typically has a slower progression.

Key features include:

  • Gradual Onset: Symptoms may develop gradually, often beginning with mild pain and discomfort that worsens over time.
  • Fibroid Degeneration: The disc’s inner material becomes fibrous, and the disc itself may become bulged or herniated, compressing the spinal cord or nerves.
  • Location: Chronic degeneration frequently occurs in the lower back (lumbar spine) or neck (cervical spine).
  • Variability: The symptoms of Hansen Type II IVDD can vary widely, ranging from mild pain and stiffness to more pronounced mobility issues.
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Symptoms of IVDD in Dogs

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a common spinal condition that can lead to discomfort, pain, and neurological issues in dogs.

Recognizing the symptoms of IVDD is crucial for early intervention and ensuring the well-being of your furry companion.

Here are some key signs to watch out for:

  • Hind Limb Weakness or Paralysis: Dogs suffering from IVDD may exhibit hind limb weakness, difficulty walking, or even complete paralysis in severe cases. This occurs due to the compression of the spinal cord or nerves by the herniated disc material.
  • Loss of Pain Sensation: In some cases, dogs with IVDD may lose sensation in their hind limbs. They might not react to pain stimuli or may not display signs of discomfort, even if they are injured.
  • Lost Bladder and Fecal Control: IVDD can impact the nerves responsible for bladder and bowel control. Dogs may experience difficulty urinating, or in severe cases, they might lose control over their bladder and bowels (urinary and fecal incontinence). A dilated anus can also be a sign of nerve dysfunction.
  • Neck or Back Pain: Depending on the location of the affected disc, dogs may show signs of neck or back pain. They may be hesitant to move, exhibit stiffness, or yelp when touched in the affected area.
  • Reluctance to Jump or Move: Dogs with IVDD might avoid activities they once enjoyed, such as jumping onto furniture or climbing stairs. They may show signs of discomfort when attempting such movements.
  • Change in Gait: You may notice changes in your dog’s gait, such as a wobbly or unsteady walk. This can be due to the hind limb weakness or altered proprioception caused by spinal cord compression.
  • Loss of Coordination: Dogs with IVDD might stumble, trip, or have difficulty maintaining balance. This lack of coordination is often due to the disruption of nerve signals caused by the compressed spinal cord.
  • Crying or Whining: Dogs in pain might vocalize more than usual. If your dog suddenly starts crying, whining, or whimpering without an apparent reason, it could be a sign of IVDD.
  • Behavioral Changes: Pain and discomfort can lead to changes in behavior. Dogs might become more irritable, withdrawn, or show signs of aggression when touched in sensitive areas.
  • Visible Signs of Discomfort: Watch for signs like trembling, shivering, or a hunched back. Dogs might also lick or chew at the affected area in an attempt to alleviate their discomfort.

Intervertebral Disc Disease Treatment Options

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) in dogs can be managed through a variety of treatment approaches, tailored to the severity of the condition and the specific needs of the individual dog.

Here are the main treatment options available:

Conservative Management:

  • Cage Rest: Mild cases of IVDD often benefit from strict cage rest, which minimizes movement and allows the disc to heal.
  • Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and pain medications may be prescribed to alleviate pain and inflammation.
  • Muscle Relaxants: These medications can help reduce muscle spasms and ease discomfort.

Physical Therapy:

  • Passive Range of Motion Exercises: Gently moving the dog’s limbs helps maintain flexibility and prevent muscle atrophy.
  • Hydrotherapy: Water exercises provide low-impact conditioning and support for weakened limbs.
  • Heat and Cold Therapy: These modalities can help reduce pain and inflammation.

Surgical Intervention:

  • Hemilaminectomy or Decompressive Surgery: In cases of severe disc herniations with spinal cord compression, surgery can remove the herniated material and relieve pressure on the spinal cord.
  • Laser Surgery: A less invasive option for certain cases, using laser technology to remove or shrink herniated disc material.

Pain Management:

  • Pain Medications: Prescription pain relievers can improve the dog’s comfort during recovery.
  • Nerve Blocks: These injections can provide localized pain relief.

Supportive Care:

  • Assistive Devices: Harnesses, slings, or carts can help dogs with mobility issues maintain movement and independence.
  • Orthopedic Beds: Providing a supportive surface to rest on can ease discomfort.

Weight Management:

  • Dietary Control: Maintaining a healthy weight reduces stress on the spine and minimizes the risk of recurrence.
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1. How quickly do intervertebral discs degenerate and rupture?

The degeneration and rupture of intervertebral discs can vary greatly. Factors such as breed, age, genetics, and overall health play a role.

In some cases, degeneration can occur gradually over time, while ruptures might happen suddenly due to factors like trauma or excessive stress on the spine.

2. When will we know if the surgery is successful?

The success of spinal surgery for Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is usually evaluated over time.

Initially, you might notice improvements in your dog’s mobility and comfort level. However, complete recovery can take weeks to months.

Close communication with your veterinarian is crucial to track progress and make adjustments to the recovery plan as needed.

3. When can my dog go home after spinal surgery?

The timing for your dog’s discharge after spinal surgery depends on various factors, including the type of surgery, the dog’s overall health, and its response to post-operative care.

maltese, dog, puppy

Final Notes

In the journey through Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) in dogs, understanding its nuances empowers us as responsible caregivers.

From recognizing early symptoms to exploring treatment avenues, this comprehensive guide equips us to face the challenges IVDD presents.

Whether it’s through conservative measures, surgical interventions, or supportive care, our commitment to our four-legged companions’ well-being is unwavering.

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