Intervertebral Disk Disease or IVDD is a pretty common illness in dogs where the cushions in between the vertebrae in the spine start to harden and become more likely to rupture. In humans, we call this a slipped disk or a disk herniation. IVDD is mostly seen in chondrodystrophic dog breeds or breeds that have been bred to have dwarf characteristics such as dachshund’s, french bulldogs, beagles, corgis, and basset hounds. Some of the non-chondrodystrophic breeds that are commonly affected by IVDD are German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and Doberman Pinschers.
IVDD Signs and Symptoms
- Stiffness of neck, limbs, or back
- Dragging rear legs
- Knuckling under
- Obvious weakness or pain
- Lowered head when standing
- Increased sensitivity to movement or touch
- Impaired gait
- Back/muscle spasms
Knowing what medical issues your dog breed is prone too is SO important in keeping them healthy and happy. If you know your dog is predisposition to IVDD make sure you keep them at a healthy, lean weight. Overweight dogs will add to the stress on their spine and other joints.
Be sure to use a harness when walking your dog to keep the stress off their neck, especially if your dog likes to pull.
Try to limit jumping off of the furniture and beds. Ramps and steps can help your pup get up with you to snuggle while also protecting their spine.
Managing Intervertebral Disk Disease
Depending on the severity of your dog's IVDD there are a few ways to manage it.
Conservative management usually includes a drug treatment such as steroids or anti-inflammatories along with one or more types of pain control to reduce the swelling and pain.
Crate rest will be the #1 recommended treatment, keeping your dog confined and keeping their movement as minimal as possible will allow the spine to heal and prevent further injury. A back brace is a great to help keep your dog's spine stable while they are on crate rest and can also be used post surgery to aid in recovery.
In more severe IVDD cases surgical intervention may be needed. IVDD surgery is done by removing a portion of the bony vertebrae over the spinal cord to relieve pressure on the spinal cord.
Surgery is not a definitive fix, even with surgical intervention your dog may not fully recover. Early intervention is key with IVDD, the sooner you act the higher the chances of a great outcome!