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FAQs from a Vet's perspective in words you can understand.  When you are trying to help your dog, you want to know the how and what.


IVDD in Dogs: Canine intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a common orthopaedic problem seen by veterinarians.

The discs are thick plate- or disc-like cushions which lie between the bony vertebrae in the spine. They are composed of a fibrous outer layer called the annulus fibrosus and a pulpy, gelatinous center called the nucleus pulposus. They help to cushion the spine as your dog walks, trots, runs, twists, and jumps.

As time goes by, the discs start to degenerate. The blood supply to the disc decreases, so the tissues are not so vital and resilient. The soft, gelatinous central material is replaced with harder cartilaginous material.

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In certain breeds, called the chondrodystrophic breeds, the discs degenerate much faster than in non-chondrodystrophic breeds. (Chondrodystrophic means “abnormal cartilage”.) In fact, degeneration can start as early as 6-12 months in some chondrodystrophic dogs! (Examples of chondrodystrophic breeds are the Dachshund, Pekinese, Lhasa Apso, Shih Tzu, Basset, Beagle, and Poodle.)

Other factors which cause or worsen the degeneration are the wear-and-tear associated with an active life, obesity, and a poor diet.

Disc disease is of two types: Type I and Type II. Type I consists of a sudden, large tear in the degenerated, weak outer layer of the disc which causes the degenerated, hard center to explode up into the spinal canal.

Members of the chondrodystrophic breeds get Type I IVDD. Since degeneration of the discs occurs earlier in these dogs, Type I IVDD. usually shows up first between 4 to 6 years of age.

In the Type II disc disease, the tear in the outer layer is smaller and tends to occur gradually over a period of time. The central material tends to bulge up into the spinal canal but then will fall back into place between the vertebrae. This second Type tends to occur in breeds with normal cartilage. Since the degeneration in these dogs occurs more gradually, Type II IVDD. usually shows up first between 8 to 10 years of age.

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Dog Back Pain

The following dog back pain symptoms, which can be sudden, intermittent or gradual in onset are the following:

• Neck pain and stiffness (reluctance to move the neck and head)

• Lowered head stance

• Back pain and stiffness

• Yelping unexpectedly when touched or moving

• Abdominal tenderness or tenseness

• Arched back (hunched posture, called “thoracolumbar kyphosis”)
• Sensitivity to touch (possible aggression)
• Sensitivity to movementImpaired, incomplete or inappropriate urination
• Lameness
• Dragging one or more legs when walking
• “Toeing over” or “knuckling over” when walking or standing
• Weakness
• Stiffness
• Stilted gait; tentative gait
• Reluctance to rise
• Tremors, trembling, shaking
• Lack of coordination (“ataxia”)
•Abnormal reflexes
• Paralysis in one or more limbs


Diseases of the muscles surrounding the spine:
Soft tissue injuries
• Bite wounds
• Inflammation
• Infection

Disc disorders:
• Degenerative discs
• Infection of the discs
• Instability of parts of the spine

Trauma to the spine:

• Dislocation

• Cancer

• Vertebra
• Roots of nerves
• Tissues around the spine
• Membrane disorders in the brain and spine
• Kidney disease

Medication for IVDD

Your veterinarian will determine the best medical protocol for IVDD and your dog. If your dog is in severe back pain due to IVDD, one or more of the following medications may be prescribed:


STEROIDS: They are anti-inflammatories and immune system suppressors. They are good especially if given in the vein the first 8 hours or by shot in the muscle, and followed by pills at home. The most commonly used are: prednisone and dexamethasone. Accompany with a stomach protector such as Pepcid (famotidine)

NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs): they are anti-inflammatories, and also have pain killing properties too. They must never be mixed with steroids or the NSAID aspirin. The most commonly used are: RimadylDeramaxxPrevicox or Metacam. Accompany with a stomach protector such as Pepcid (famotidine).

MUSCLE RELAXERS: During a herniation a dog can have nasty muscle spasms. Muscle relaxers help prevent them and they also help keep the dog calm while in crate rest. The most commonly used are: Methocarbamol and Valium.

PAIN KILLERS OR ANALGESICS: They help through the healing period by making your dog more comfortable. The most commonly used are: Tramadol or a Fentanyl patch.

Do remember that all drugs have side effects and some (steroids and NSAIDs) need to be given with a stomach protector. Steroids and NSAIDs should never be mixed or switched without washing out the other from the body for 7 days. Ask your vet or pharmacist for an informative brochure on each drug or search the web for adverse side effects.


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More information on IVDD drugs
Easy IVDD for Beginners

If your dog has IVDD, medication and supervised crate rest (to make sure your dog is comfortable) is very IMPORTANT. In addition, WiggleLess® may offer Back Stability, Firm Support and Stress Relief to help in their recovery.

Chondrodystrophic Dog Breeds | IVDD

Intervertebral disk disease occurs primarily in middle-aged chondrodystrophic breeds (3 to 6 years). When it occurs in NONchondrodystrophic breeds, they typically are older (8 to 10 years). “Chondrodystrophy” is a disorder of cartilage formation. “Cartilage” is a specialized, tough, gristly type of connective tissue that essentially provides a model for bone development and growth. In chondodystrophic dog breeds such as Dachshund, Bulldog, Corgi, Pug, French Bulldog, Bassett Hound, Pekinese, Lhasa Apso, Shih Tzu, Beagle, and Poodle.Chondrodystrophy is seen as characteristic angular limb deformities and abnormally short legs (but not always)… otherwise known as hereditary dwarfism.

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Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD) in Dogs | Symptoms & TypesCanine Intervertebral Disc