What is IVDD?

IVDD stands for Intervertebral Disc Disease, a common spinal condition in dogs. It occurs when the discs that cushion the vertebrae in a dog's spine degenerate or become damaged. These discs act like shock absorbers between the bones of the spine.

When IVDD occurs, the inner gel-like material of the disc can herniate or rupture through the outer layer. This can lead to pressure on the spinal cord or nerves, causing pain, weakness, and in severe cases, paralysis.

IVDD is more common in certain breeds, particularly those with long backs like Dachshunds, Corgis, and Bulldogs. It can be a progressive condition, and early detection and treatment are crucial for the best outcome. Treatment options can range from medication and strict rest to surgery, depending on the severity of the case. Additionally, supportive measures like using a dog back brace or physical therapy may be recommended to aid in recovery.

How common is IVDD?

IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease) is relatively common in dogs, particularly in breeds that are predisposed due to their body structure. It's estimated that IVDD affects around 2-3% of the dog population, though the prevalence may be higher in specific breeds.

Certain breeds, such as Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, Corgis, and Bulldogs, have a higher incidence of IVDD due to their unique body shapes with long backs and short legs. In these breeds, the prevalence can be notably higher, with some studies suggesting rates as high as 19-24%.

While IVDD can occur in any breed, it's more frequently observed in those with these structural characteristics. Additionally, factors like genetics, age, and weight can influence a dog's risk for developing IVDD.

Regular veterinary care and awareness of breed-specific risks can aid in early detection and management of this condition.

What dogs are prone to IVDD?

Breeds that are prone to IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease) typically have certain characteristics, such as long bodies and short legs this is called chondrodystrophoy. Some of the breeds that are commonly predisposed to IVDD include:

  1. Dachshunds: This breed is well-known for its long body and short legs, which puts them at a higher risk for IVDD.

  2. Basset Hounds: Bassets also have a long body and relatively short legs, making them more susceptible to spinal issues like IVDD.

  3. Corgis: Both Pembroke and Cardigan Welsh Corgis have elongated bodies, putting them at risk for IVDD.

  4. French Bulldogs: While not as extreme as some other breeds, French Bulldogs have a relatively long body and can be prone to spinal issues.

  5. Pekingese: Their unique body shape with a flat face and long back can predispose them to IVDD.

  6. Beagles: Beagles, especially those with a longer body type, can be at a higher risk for IVDD.

  7. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels: This breed can be prone to IVDD due to their longer back and sometimes flat skull shape.

It's important to note that while these breeds may have a higher predisposition, IVDD can occur in any breed or mixed-breed dog. Additionally, individual factors like genetics, age, weight, and overall health can influence a dog's risk for developing IVDD. Regular veterinary check-ups and preventive measures can help manage this risk.

What are the signs of IVDD in dogs?

The signs of Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) in dogs can vary depending on the severity and location of the affected discs. Common signs of IVDD may include:

  1. Back Pain: Dogs with IVDD may exhibit signs of discomfort or pain, which can range from mild to severe. They may arch their back, flinch when touched, or vocalize in pain.

  2. Reluctance to Move: Dogs may be hesitant to move, especially in ways that involve their spine, such as jumping or climbing stairs.

  3. Stiffness or Awkward Gait: They may have difficulty moving smoothly, and their gait may appear stiff or uncoordinated.

  4. Weakness or Lethargy: IVDD can lead to weakness in the limbs, making it harder for the dog to walk or support their own weight. This can result in lethargy or a reluctance to engage in physical activity.

  5. Loss of Coordination: Some dogs may show signs of wobbling or stumbling, particularly in the hind end.

  6. Loss of Bladder or Bowel Control: In severe cases, IVDD can put pressure on the spinal cord, leading to a loss of control over urination and defecation.

  7. Paralysis: In the most severe cases, IVDD can lead to complete paralysis, where the dog is unable to move their legs or may lose the ability to stand.

  8. Behavioral Changes: Pain and discomfort can lead to changes in a dog's behavior, such as irritability, aggression, or withdrawal.

It's important to note that the signs of IVDD can develop gradually or suddenly, and they may vary from one dog to another. If you suspect your dog may have IVDD, it's crucial to seek prompt veterinary attention for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Early intervention can significantly improve the outcome for dogs with this condition.

Does IVDD go away?

IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease) itself does not "go away" on its own. It is a chronic condition characterized by degeneration or damage to the intervertebral discs in a dog's spine. Once these discs are affected, they typically do not regenerate or heal spontaneously.

However, with appropriate treatment and management, dogs with IVDD can experience significant improvement and lead fulfilling lives. The goal of treatment is to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and support the dog's natural healing processes. This can be achieved through methods such as rest, medication, physical therapy, and, in some cases, surgery.

While the condition may not fully resolve, many dogs can learn to adapt and thrive with the right care. Regular veterinary check-ups and consistent adherence to recommended treatment plans are crucial in ensuring the best possible outcome for a dog with IVDD.

What causes a dog to get IVDD?

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) in dogs primarily arises from a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors. The specific causes can include:

  1. Genetics: Certain breeds are genetically predisposed to IVDD due to their body structure. Breeds with long backs and short legs, like Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, and Corgis, are more susceptible.

  2. Age: IVDD is more commonly seen in middle-aged to older dogs, typically between the ages of 3 and 7, but it can occur at any age.

  3. Excessive Strain: Activities that put excessive strain on the spine, such as jumping from heights or rough play, can increase the risk of IVDD.

  4. Obesity: Carrying excess weight can contribute to the development or exacerbation of IVDD. The additional weight puts added stress on the spine.

  5. Inactivity Followed by Sudden Activity: Dogs that are largely sedentary and then suddenly engage in vigorous exercise may be at higher risk.

  6. Trauma or Injury: A significant fall or blunt force trauma can lead to the development of IVDD.

  7. Degeneration over Time: As dogs age, the intervertebral discs can naturally degenerate, making them more susceptible to herniation.

It's important to note that while these factors contribute to the development of IVDD, the condition can occur in dogs without any clear predisposing factors. If you have a breed that is at higher risk for IVDD or if you suspect your dog may be showing signs of this condition, consulting with a veterinarian for guidance on prevention and management is advisable.

Can a dog recover from IVDD?

Yes, dogs can recover from IVDD, but the extent of recovery depends on various factors, including the severity of the condition, the location of the affected disc, and how quickly it is diagnosed and treated.

Mild cases of IVDD may respond well to conservative treatments, such as strict rest, anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy. With these measures, many dogs can experience significant improvement and return to a good quality of life.

In more severe cases, especially those involving paralysis, surgical intervention may be necessary to alleviate pressure on the spinal cord. Surgery can provide the best chance for recovery, although the degree of improvement can vary depending on the specific circumstances.

In addition to medical treatment and/or surgery, the use of a dog back brace or other supportive devices may be recommended to aid in the recovery process. These can provide additional stability to the spine and support the dog's mobility.

It's important to note that recovery from IVDD is a gradual process, and patience is key. Close monitoring by a veterinarian is essential, and they will provide guidance on the best course of action for your specific situation. Additionally, post-recovery measures such as ongoing exercise, weight management, and potentially the use of assistive devices may be recommended to maintain your dog's health and mobility.

What is the life expectancy of a dog with IVDD?

Dogs with degenerative disc disease can lead fulfilling lives with the right care and attention. The prognosis largely depends on various factors, including the severity of the condition, the location of affected discs, the dog's age, and overall health.

In cases of mild IVDD, with proper treatment and management, dogs often go on to live happy and active lives. They may experience occasional flare-ups, but these can typically be well-controlled with medication and rest.

For dogs facing more severe cases, especially if paralysis is involved, advances in veterinary medicine and surgical techniques offer promising outcomes. With prompt and effective treatment, including surgery and rehabilitation, many dogs can make remarkable recoveries and enjoy a good quality of life for years to come.

It's important to remember that each dog is unique, and with the right care, many can thrive despite this condition. Regular veterinary check-ups and following recommended treatment plans are key in ensuring the best possible outcome for a dog with degenerative disc disease.

Is IVDD in dogs fatal?

IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease) can potentially be fatal in severe cases if it leads to significant damage or compression of the spinal cord. This is particularly true if the disease progresses to the point where it may be termed myelomalacia. Myelomalacia can affect the dog's ability to breathe and/or causes other life-threatening complications.

However, many cases of IVDD are not fatal, especially if they are detected early and appropriate treatment is administered. With prompt veterinary care, including medication, rest, physical therapy, or in some cases, surgery, dogs with IVDD can often recover and lead normal lives.

It's important to note that the prognosis for dogs with IVDD varies widely depending on factors such as the location and severity of the affected discs, the dog's age and overall health, and how quickly treatment is initiated. This is why early detection and intervention are crucial in managing this condition. If you suspect your dog may have IVDD, it's important to seek immediate veterinary attention.

Should you euthanize a dog with IVDD?

The decision to euthanize a dog with IVDD is a deeply personal and complex one. It depends on several factors, including the severity of the condition, the dog's overall quality of life, and the potential for recovery.

In cases of IVDD, euthanasia is typically considered if:

  1. Severe Pain and Suffering: If the dog is experiencing severe and unmanageable pain, despite appropriate medical treatment.

  2. Loss of Quality of Life: If the dog has lost the ability to perform basic functions like walking, eating, and toileting, and their overall quality of life is severely compromised.

  3. Inability to Breathe or Perform Vital Functions: In extreme cases where the condition has progressed to the point of affecting the dog's ability to breathe or perform other vital functions, euthanasia may be considered to prevent further suffering.

  4. Financial Constraints: In some cases, the cost of treatment or ongoing care for a severe case of IVDD may be prohibitive for the owner, and this can be a factor in the decision.

Conversely, if a dog with IVDD is responding well to treatment, maintaining a good quality of life, and showing signs of improvement, euthanasia may not be necessary.

Ultimately, the decision should be made in consultation with a veterinarian who can provide a thorough assessment of the dog's condition and discuss the options and potential outcomes. It's a difficult decision, and seeking support from friends, family, and even professional counselors can be valuable during this emotional and challenging time.

Can my dog recover from IVDD without surgery?

Yes, dogs with IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease) can potentially recover without surgery, especially in cases where the condition is less severe or if surgery is not a viable option for some due to age surgical history, or issues with surgery in the past.

Non-surgical treatment options for IVDD may include:

  1. Strict Rest: Restricting the dog's activity to minimize further stress on the spine. This can be crucial in allowing the body to heal naturally.

  2. Medication: Pain management and anti-inflammatory medications prescribed by a veterinarian can help alleviate discomfort and reduce inflammation.

  3. Physical Therapy: This can include exercises to improve mobility and strengthen supporting muscles, as well as techniques like massage and hydrotherapy.

  4. Supportive Measures: Using a dog back brace or other assistive devices can provide additional stability to the spine and support the dog's mobility during recovery.

  5. Close Monitoring: Regular check-ups with a veterinarian are important to track progress and make adjustments to the treatment plan as needed.

It's worth noting that the effectiveness of non-surgical treatment depends on factors such as the severity and location of the affected discs, as well as the individual dog's response to treatment. Some dogs can experience significant improvement and lead normal lives with diligent non-surgical management.

However, it's important to follow your veterinarian's guidance closely and be prepared to consider surgical options if the condition worsens or if non-surgical methods prove insufficient in providing relief and recovery for your dog. Always consult with a veterinarian for the best course of action tailored to your dog's specific situation.

How do you lift a dog with IVDD?

  1. Get Assistance: If possible, have someone help you. This ensures that the weight is evenly distributed and minimizes the risk of injury to both you and the dog.

  2. Use a Supportive Sling or Towel: Place a sturdy sling or a folded towel under the dog's abdomen. Make sure it is long enough to provide support along their body.

  3. Position Yourself: Stand facing the dog, with your feet shoulder-width apart for stability.

  4. Gently Lift: Grasp the ends of the sling or towel and slowly lift the dog, keeping their body as level as possible. Since the dog is small, you may be able to lift them comfortably without straining.

  5. Avoid Twisting: Be mindful not to twist your body while lifting. Keep your back straight to prevent any strain.

  6. Support the Rear End: If the dog's hind legs are affected, provide extra support for their back end. You may need to lift slightly higher to ensure their hind legs are off the ground.

  7. Move Slowly and Calmly: Take your time and move at the dog's pace. Avoid sudden movements or jerks.

  8. Set Down Gently: When placing the dog back down, do so slowly and with control. Lower them onto a comfortable surface.

  9. Monitor for Discomfort: Pay attention to the dog's reactions. If they show signs of distress, adjust your hold or seek assistance from a veterinarian.

Remember, even with a smaller dog, it's important to adapt your lifting technique based on their specific needs and comfort level. Consulting with your veterinarian for guidance on how best to lift and support your small dog with IVDD is highly recommended.

Disc Disease Classifications:

Hansen Type I : Displacement of the nucleus pulposus through a rent in the annulus fibrosis. Causes spinal cord or nerve root compression. Typically has acute to subacute onset. Common in CD breeds, especially the dachshund.19 The dachshund, beagle, pekinese, shih tzu and American cocker spaniel have the highest reported incidence. 

Hansen Type II: Bulging of the annulus fibrosis and herniation of the nucleus pulposus within the annulus. Produces a more diffuse mass effect. Associated with a more gradual onset of clinical signs.

Hansen Type III or Acute Non-compressive Nucleus Pulposus Extrusion (ANNPE) : Low volume/High Velocity disc extrusion. Associated with strenuous exercise or trauma in dogs >1 year of age and in cats. Causes concussive injury to spinal cord.