Intervertebral Disc Disease is dogs

What is Intervertebral Disc Disease in Dogs?

What is it?

Intervertebral disc disease in dogs is a condition where the discs between the vertebrae in the spine degenerate and become damaged or herniated, causing pain and discomfort. This can lead to nerve damage and a range of neurological symptoms. Intervertebral disc disease can affect dogs of any breed or age, but is more commonly seen in small to medium-sized breeds with short legs and long backs.

How is it Treated?

The treatment of intervertebral disc disease in dogs depends on the severity and location of the damage. In mild cases, rest and pain management may be recommended, while more severe cases may require surgical intervention to alleviate pressure on the affected nerves. Physical therapy and rehabilitation may also be recommended to aid in recovery and prevent future injury. 

Breed Predispositions

Dachshunds French Bulldogs Beagles Basset Hounds Pekingese Shih Tzus Corgis Lhasa Apsos Miniature Pinschers Poodles


As Lisa watched her cherished Dachshund, Frankie, play in the living room, she noticed him suddenly whining in pain and struggling to move his back legs. Concerned about her beloved pet’s well-being, Lisa took Frankie to the veterinarian for a comprehensive examination. After a thorough evaluation, the vet diagnosed Frankie with intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), a spinal condition that can affect dogs, particularly those with long backs like Dachshunds.

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is when the spinal cord becomes irritated due to pressure from a herniated intervertebral disc. Intervertebral disk disease occurs when one or more of these discs rupture and leak out of their normal position. Most disc ruptures happen in the mid back and some in the neck.

An intervertebral disk is located between each pair of spinal bones. Each bone has several discs, and there are three pairs of these discs in the spine. These discs act as shock absorbers, allowing us to bend forward, backward, and side to side without putting too much stress on the spine.

Each disc consists of an inner part called the nucleus pulposus (NP) and an outer portion called the annulus fibrosis (AF).

  • The Nucleus Pulposus is made up of gelatinous material. It acts as a cushion between the annulus fibrosis and the vertebrae.
  • The Annulus Fibrosus comprises tough connective tissue and surrounds the nucleus pulposus. When the annulus fibrous tissue becomes damaged, the nucleus pulposus leaks out of its place, resulting in inflammation and swelling of the annulus fibrosis.

What Causes Intervertebral Disc Disease in Dogs?

Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) is a painful condition in which the intervertebral disks become damaged due to age, injury, or congenital disabilities. It is characterized by degeneration of the intervertebral disc’s nucleus pulposus and annulus fibrosus. IVDD is one of the leading causes of chronic back pain or spinal disease in dogs.

The cause of IVDD is unknown; however, several risk factors are associated with this condition, including breed predisposition, obesity, and genetic disorders. In addition, there are many theories regarding how IVDD develops.

What causes Intervertebral Disc Disease in dogs
  1. Age – Older dogs are at greater risk than younger ones.
  2. Breed – Bulldogs, Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Pitbulls, Chows, Great Danes, Mastiffs, St Bernards, and Bull Terriers are among breeds known to be predisposed to IVDD.
  3. Diet – High-fat diets increase the likelihood of developing IVDD.
  4. Exercise – Excessive exercise increases the chance of developing IVDD. This includes running, jumping, playing fetch, agility training, and field trials.
  5. Genetics – Certain genetic disorders, such as hip and elbow dysplasia, make certain breeds more prone to developing IVDD.

Also, One theory suggests that the lack of nutrition from the nucleus pulposus leads to decreased cell viability and increased apoptosis. Another theory states that lacking nutrients leads to inflammation, further damaging the tissue. Finally, a third theory suggests that the lack or decrease in proteoglycan synthesis leads to reduced water retention and swelling of the discs.

Another theory suggests that the lack of collagen production leads to fissures in the annulus fibrosus.

Types of Intervertebral Disc Disease

There are many types of IVDD, including degenerative disc disease, ruptured discs, and protruding disks. These conditions can be done in surgical treatment or medically.

  • Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is when the discs inside the spine become damaged and lose their ability to support the body’s weight. This causes pain and discomfort in the back, legs, hips, and tail. The most common symptoms include difficulty walking, stiffness, loss of appetite, depression, and lack of energy. It is usually caused by age, genetics, obesity, bowel control, and poor nutrition.
  • Ruptured Disc Disease (RDD) is a condition with damage to the intervertebral discs in your dog’s spine. This causes pain and discomfort in the back legs. It is most commonly seen in larger breeds of dogs such as Great Danes, Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Bull Terriers, Mastiffs, Pit Bulls, etc.
  • Protruding Disk Disease (PDD) is a condition with swelling of one or more intervertebral discs, which causes pain in the back and legs. It occurs most commonly in large breed dogs such as Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, Boxers, Bullmastiffs, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, St Bernards, Mastiffs, etc. The condition usually affects older dogs and is often hereditary.

Symptoms of Intervertebral Disc Disease in Dogs

Symptoms of Intervertebral Disc Disease in dogs

The most common symptom of intervertebral disc disease in dogs is sudden, unexplained pain in the back or neck. If the affected area is the neck, your dog may show signs of stiffness and restraint during movement. In addition, his ability to walk may not be normal, and he keeps his balance when walking.

Other clinical signs of IVDD in dogs include loss of appetite, refusal to eat or drink water, trembling or shaking due to pain, listlessness, and lethargy. If the lesion occurs in the lower back area, your dog may drag its hind legs while walking due to nerve damage. Severe cases can cause urinary incontinence and paralysis if left untreated.

 The symptoms usually appear gradually over several months, and most owners notice them only when their dog stops limping. IVDD is often misdiagnosed because many veterinarians lack knowledge of this condition.

Diagnosis of Intervertebral Disc Herniation in Dogs

Diagnosis of Intervertebral Disc Herniation in dogs is typically made after a comprehensive physical exam and review of your dog’s medical history. Depending on the suspected disorder, the veterinarian may take X-rays or even perform an MRI. Red flags for disc herniation include signs of pain and neurologic deficits such as limping, lack of coordination, muscle atrophy, an abnormal gait, or inability to move certain body parts.

If a veterinarian observes these physical signs, your pet must be tested for disc herniation. This often involves performing blood work to check for infections that may lead to nerve damage and inflammation in the spine, as well as imaging studies to examine the structure and integrity of the vertebrae. Other diagnostic tests include CT scans, myelography (or contrast studies), and electromyography (a test that measures electrical signals from muscles).

Ultimately, suppose a diagnosis of intervertebral disc disease is confirmed through this process. In that case, your veterinarian must develop a treatment plan with you and discuss any potential long-term implications for your pet’s health.

Treatment Options for Intervertebral Disc Degeneration in Dogs

Treatment for Intervertebral Disc Disease varies depending on the condition’s severity and progression. Treatment options include rest, pain medication, physical therapy, surgery, and euthanasia. Resting the affected area helps reduce stress on the spine and reduces inflammation. Medicine includes NSAIDs such as meloxicam, carprofen, and tramadol.

Two types of treatment for IVDD are available, and both require surgery.

  • Surgery involves removing and replacing the damaged disc material with an artificial implant. Surgery is typically performed under general anesthesia; recovery takes approximately four weeks. Therefore, a patient who undergoes surgery should expect to recover fully 90% of the time.
  • Nonsurgery treatment involves medications for pain relief and inflammation associated with IVDD. Medicines that treat IVDD include anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, and narcotics. These medications are administered orally.

The most common types of intervertebral disc surgeries include:

  • Discotomy involves removing part of the damaged disc material, usually when only one small piece is left.
  • Fusion involves fusing two adjacent vertebrae. This is often recommended after discectomy because it helps prevent future problems.
  • Total Laminectomy involves removing the lamina (the bony plate) surrounding the spinal cord. This is often done when the damage is severe enough to cause neurological symptoms.
  • Partial Laminectomy is similar to total Laminectomy except that only part of the lamina is removed.

Prevention Tips

Prevention of intervertebral disk disease can help reduce the risk of injury to your dog’s spine. Fortunately, you can follow a few simple tips to prevent this debilitating condition in your pup!

Could you make sure your dog exercises regularly? Even a few minutes of moderate exercise daily can keep your pup’s muscles strong and flexible and protect their spinal health. In addition, exercise stimulates blood flow and increases muscle mass, both of which help prevent the development of IVDD.

Feed your canine companion a nutritious diet. A balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals like Omega-3 fatty acids helps keep your dog’s bones and joints healthy. Owners should avoid feeding diets containing excessive protein, fat, or carbohydrates. Excessive intake of rich foods can lead to obesity, which puts extra stress on the joints and ligaments.

Make sure your pup is not overweight. Too much weight puts extra stress on the vertebrae in the spine, which can cause or amplify existing problems with intervertebral disk disease. Keep portions appropriate for your pup’s size and activity level, and take them for regular walks, so they don’t gain too much weight.

Frequently Asked Questions

Dogs suffering from IVDD undergo intervertebral disk surgery. IVDD is when one or more disks become damaged due to spinal cord injury or degenerative condition.

This procedure aims to remove the damaged portion of the disk(s), which relieves pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. This allows the nerves to heal correctly and reduces inflammation. Sometimes, the surgeon may recommend removing and replacing the entire disk with bone graft material.

The success rate of this surgery varies depending on the dog’s age at the time of the surgery and how severe the condition is before the surgery. Generally, the older the dog and the worse the situation, the less likely the surgery will work. However, if the dog is younger than 18 months old and has no symptoms, the chance of success is excellent. If the dog is older than 18 months old and shows signs of discomfort, the chances of success decrease.

Success rates vary among veterinarians because they use different techniques, implants, and follow-up care plans. Some vets recommend that the dog walk around without weight on its legs after the surgery, and others suggest that the dog wear a harness while walking. Most vets recommend that the dog be given anti-inflammatory drugs like Rimadyl (carprofen) or Adequan (methylprednisolone acetate) for two weeks after the surgery.

Surgery is usually recommended when there are no signs of improvement after conservative treatment plans such as rest, medication, physical therapy, and chiropractic care.

Intervertebral Disk Surgery costs vary from $500 to $1500 depending on the procedure performed, your dog’s spine size, and how many vertebrae are involved. The average price of intervertebral disk surgery ranges from $800-$1200.

It takes at least three months for a dog to recover after disc surgery fully.

The first step in any recovery process is rest, and the second is nutrition. After a few days of rest, the body begins to heal itself. If you feed your pet well during this period, he’ll be able to get back to his normal activities sooner.

After a week or two of rest, your vet should check your pet’s progress. He’ll want to ensure no complications, such as infection, bleeding, or swelling. In addition, your vet might recommend some gentle exercises like short walks around the yard.

Once your pet seems healthy again, it’s time to feed him a protein-rich diet. This helps build strong muscles and bones, making them less likely to break down when your pet starts exercising again.

Your vet will probably prescribe an exceptional food designed just for pets recovering from surgery. You should be able to follow these instructions carefully. Please only give your pet something else once your vet tells you it’s OK.

If your pet doesn’t seem to be getting enough nutrients, ask your vet what you can do to help. For example, if your pet isn’t eating much, try mixing his meals into smaller portions. Or you could offer a treat daily to reward your pet for good behavior.

It’s essential to keep your pet warm and dry while he recovers. Make sure he always has access to clean water and fresh air. And don’t let him run free outside. Dogs who play too hard can injure themselves, even if their injuries look minor.

Yes, a dog can recover from IVDD without surgery. However, the prognosis is better if the dog undergoes surgery to correct the problem. There is a chance that the dog will experience some permanent disability due to IVDD. However, most dogs make a full recovery with surgery.

Your dog can slip a disc again, but it’s rare. However, if you’re concerned that your dog may have slipped a disc again, please schedule an appointment with your vet and have them check out your pet.

A careful history, including age at onset and another medical history, neurologic examination findings, radiological studies if available, blood work (CBC and serum chemistry), and urinalysis if necessary to evaluate for urinary tract disease.

Knowing if a disc or something else squeezes your dog’s spinal cord requires specialized knowledge and expertise. To accurately diagnose this condition, your veterinarian must perform a physical examination, take X-rays, or get an MRI or CT scan.

Your vet may be able to tell if the disc is pressing on the nerve by feeling it through physical manipulation during their examination. They may recommend sending samples from the area for laboratory analysis if they need more clarification.

Software such as Myelogram and Fluoroscopy can also give valuable information about the extent of damage in the spinal cord and its surrounding area. These procedures involve injecting contrast media into the spine and taking X-rays at different angles to find out which structures surround and compress the nerve root—helpful for correctly diagnosing any condition that might be causing problems with your pet’s spinal cord.

Additionally, CT scans provide a much more detailed image than X-rays and can help determine what’s causing compression on the nerves within the spine. A CT scan combines several X-ray images to create a much clearer picture of what’s happening inside your pet’s body.

No matter which method of diagnosis is used, your veterinarian will use this information to create an accurate treatment plan for your pet so that it can return to total health.

Most spinal surgery for disc disease takes around three hours. However, spinal surgery for disc disease may take longer, depending on the condition and the specific surgery.

Physical rehabilitation is essential after spinal surgery, and patients must be closely monitored for any signs of infection and should undergo regular follow-ups with their surgeon. In addition, physical therapy can help patients regain strength and mobility in their back and extremities.

IVDD surgery’s success rate is usually very high. Approximately 95% of patients experience excellent results following IVDD surgery. Some expected benefits of IVDD surgery include: improved vision, corrected double idea, reduced or eliminated glasses and contacts needed, restored stereopsis (depth perception), relief from headache and eye pain, improved eye mobility, and a better quality of life.

A herniated disc, spinal stenosis, a tumor on the spine (especially if it is in an area that presses on the nerve root), and cervical spondylosis are all conditions that could be mistaken for intervertebral disc disease.

Typically dogs can go home between three and five days after surgery. However, depending on the individual dog’s health and recovery, they may be able to leave sooner or later.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this veterinary website is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a licensed veterinarian for any concerns or questions regarding the health and well-being of your pet. This website does not claim to cover every possible situation or provide exhaustive knowledge on the subjects presented. The owners and contributors of this website are not responsible for any harm or loss that may result from the use or misuse of the information provided herein.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *