Intervertebral Disc Disease in Dogs

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a spinal problem that occurs fairly commonly in dogs. To understand the disease, it is useful to have some knowledge of the anatomy of the spine. 

The spinal cord is part of the central nervous system, and it controls the sensation and function of the body from the neck down.  The spinal cord is encased and protected by a series of bones called vertebrae.  In between vertebrae are the intervertebral discs, which are disc-shaped structures made of cartilage that absorb shock and allow flexible movement of the spine.  In IVDD, changes occur in these discs that cause them to either bulge out or rupture, releasing the material they contain into the spinal canal.  The problem with this is that the bulging disc or the disc material will compress the delicate spinal cord, damaging it and affecting its ability to control the body.

The main signs of IVDD in dogs are caused by neurological defecits.  Depending on which discs are affected, there may be weakness or paralysis of all four legs, or the back legs only.  This may manifest as the back legs giving way, being dragged or in some cases, the dog may be unable to stand at all.  In addition, the patient may lose control of urination or defaecation.  Pain is often a feature of IVDD.  These changes may occur gradually or suddenly, and can be quite alarming.

Dogs of any breed can be affected by IVDD, but certain breeds have cartilage abnormalities, making them more prone to the disease.  In these breeds, the problem can occur as you as three years of age, while other breeds are usually affected when they are older.  Some examples of breeds that are prone to the disease include the Dachshund, Basset Hound, Corgi, Toy Poodle and Cocker Spaniel.

Diagnosis of IVDD is based on the veterinarian’s examination of the doggy, followed by imaging tests such as X-rays, CT Scans and MRI.  Treatment of IVDD depends on the grade, or severity, and may range from strict rest and anti-inflammatory medication to surgery.  Unfortunately, the more severe the disease, the less likely that the pet will regain neurological function.

Do you know of any dog that had this disease? What was the treatment that the veterinarian recommended? Let us know the story in the comments!

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