Intervertebral Disc Disease In Dogs
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) in dogs is a common cause of back pain, rear limb paralysis, and the inability to walk or feel the back legs.
The spine of the dog comprises a series of vertebrae separated by discs. Discs offer a cushion from impacts such as running and jumping. The spine’s exterior consists of a mesh of fibrous tissue filled with a gelatinous mixture of fluid and cartilage. The spinal cord rests above the discs, threaded through the vertebrae.
When compressed, the nerves and the spinal cord impulses cannot send signals to the final destination. If the damage is severe enough, it can lead to paralysis and loss of bowel control. Once the spinal cord’s location where IVDD symptoms have occurred and the severity is determined, a treatment plan will be created.
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) can affect any dog. However, smaller breeds and breeds with longer backs are more prone to the disease. Disc degeneration often occurs over a dog’s life; nevertheless, the onset of symptoms can be sudden.
Your dog needs immediate veterinary attention if they show IVDD symptoms. However, the treatment may vary from administering a drug to a surgical procedure. In addition, the prognosis varies depending on the extent of the damage to the disc.
Signs your dog may have IVDD
- Extreme pain
- Arching of the back
- Reluctance to move their head, even while eating and drinking
- Partial or complete paralysis
- A partial or full incontinence
Symptoms of IVDD may include
- Hesitation to exercise or decreased activity
- Decreased appetite
- Pain and neurological alterations in extremities
- Anxious behavior
- Muscle spasms in the back or neck
- Analgesic postures
- Ataxia (incoordination)
- Paresis or paralysis
- Loss of control of sphincters depending on the location of a hernia
Most Affected Breeds
- Shih Tzu
- French Bulldog
- Lhasa Apso
- Welsh Corgi
- Cocker Spaniels
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
Diagnosis of IVDD is based on a grading scale of severity:
Grade 1: PAIN – Dogs can walk but exhibit signs of pain, including the reluctance to move, jump, shiver, cry, have muscle spasms, and or a tense abdomen.
Grade 2: AMBULATORY PARAPARESIS – Dogs can walk but are weak and wobbly in the hind legs. They may cross their back legs when walking, splay out, knuckle over or stumble.
Grade 3: NON-AMBULATORY PARAPARESIS – Dogs can still move their legs and wags their tails but is not strong enough to support their weight and walk.
Grade 4: PARAPLEGIA – Dogs have no voluntary movement in their rear legs.
Grade 5: PARAPLEGIA WITH ABSENT NOCICEPTION (NO DEEP PAIN) – Dogs are unable to move and are unable to feel their rear legs.
A veterinary examination will include a complete neurological exam, which will help make a clinical judgment about the lesion’s location and severity. X-rays may show an abnormal area in the spine. However, more sensitive tests such as CT (computerized axial tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) are needed to determine the compression’s degree and location.
Conservative treatment refers to those who do not need surgical intervention. Instead, treatment will combine various pharmacological therapies, rehabilitation, and moderate rest until the dog g returns to normal life.
If the damage is too severe, recurrent or the dog becomes paralyzed, the dog will most likely require surgical treatment.
Rehabilitation after surgery and conservative treatment is essential to help regain their function and speed up their recovery.
- Weight management in predisposed breeds is essential to avoid overloads and unnecessary spinal strain.
- Choose a collar or harness that best suits your dog to avoid tugging and preventing any neck, and backpressure is a great way to prevent damage to the neck.
- Limit your dog from jumping in and out of the car, off and on furniture, etc.
Owners who suspect their dog has a spinal cord will want to consult with a veterinarian, veterinary neurologist, or orthopedic specialist to determine a diagnosis.
Contact us for dogs who have already sought medical advice or treatment and rehabilitation or physical fitness was prescribed; we can help you throughout your dog’s recovery.
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