If your dog has IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease), surgery might not be the only treatment option. However, it may be the best. The goal of IVDD surgery for dogs is to restore their mobility, reduce pain, and prevent additional disc issues. Today, our Lafayette vets talk about IVDD in dogs and the treatment options available, including surgery.
Intervertebral Discs In Dogs
The intervertebral disc is a gelatinous inner substance surrounded by a ring of fibrous tissue. Intervertebral discs provide the spine with flexibility and help cushion the load on the spine whenever your dog is performing movements such as running or jumping.
IVDD & Dogs
Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) can also be described as a ruptured, slipped, bulging, or herniated disk that can occur in your dog's neck or back. This condition is often seen in Dachshunds, Beagles, Pekingese, Shih Tzus, and Basset Hounds but may occur in dogs of any size or breed.
Signs & Symptoms of Dog IVDD
The IVDD symptoms your dog exhibits will depend on the location of the damaged disc, but may include one or more of the following:
- Reluctance to move
- Arched back
- Head held low
- Limp tail
- Shivering and crying out
- Loss of feeling in some or all feet
- Inability to walk or stand normally
How Dogs Get IVDD
Intervertebral Disc Disease is an age-related, gradual degenerative process that affects the spinal cord of the dog over some time, often undetected.
IVDD occurs when the shock-absorbing discs between your dog's vertebrae gradually start to harden until they can't cushion the vertebrae properly any longer. The hardened discs will typically go on to bulge and compress the spinal cord, often damaging the dog's nerve impulses such as those that control bladder and bowel control. In other cases, a simple jump or poor landing can make one or more of the hardened discs burst and press into the nerves of the dog's spinal cord causing pain, possible nerve damage, or even paralysis.
Non-Surgical Ways IVDD Can Be Treated In Dogs
If your dog has been diagnosed with IVDD but is still able to walk non-surgical treatments may be able to help your dog recover from IVDD. That said, if your dog has a severe case of IVDD and has lost its ability to walk, urgent emergency treatment is required.
Non-surgical treatment for IVDD is also called conservative treatment or management. The goals of non-surgical treatment are to help relieve pain and discomfort, to get your dog standing and walking again, and to help restore lost bladder and bowel control. Non-Surgical treatments for IVDD in dogs include:
- Strict Crate-Rest - If you are trying to relieve your dog's IVDD symptoms without surgery, strict rest is going to be essential and is going to require patience! Your dog will need to be strictly confined to a small room or crate for at least 4 weeks to give the dog's body sufficient time to try and mend the damage.
- Anti-Inflammatory Medications - Non-surgical treatment of IVDD in dogs will likely include steroid and anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce pain and swelling. These medications are used in combination with restricted activity and crate-rest.
- Dietary Care - Your vet will carefully calculate the precise number of calories required by your pet to manage weight and help to prevent added pressure on their spine.
- Physical Rehabilitation (Physical Therapy) - A rehabilitation practitioner will assess your dog's current condition and recommend a treatment plan which will include a combination of at-home treatments and professional treatment. Rehab can work wonders for pets suffering from mild-moderate cases of IVDD, as well as those recovering from surgery.
Surgery for Dogs With IVDD
Surgery is often considered the best and in some cases the only, treatment for severe cases of IVDD in dogs. The goal of IVDD surgery is to remove the diseased intervertebral disk material to relieve the pressure on your dog's spinal cord, restore normal blood flow, and prevent disc problems in the future. To achieve this goal, a combination of surgeries may be used to treat dogs with IVDD.
The surgeries used to treat your dog's IVDD will largely depend upon the location of the diseased disc. There are several different IVDD surgeries including hemilaminectomy, laminectomy, fenestration, and ventral slot. In some cases, a vertebral stabilization (fusion) procedure may also be recommended, especially in large breed dogs. The cost of your dog's IVDD surgery will depend on many factors including your dog's overall health, age, and weight, as well as where on your dog the injury is and where in the country you live. The only way to get an accurate estimate regarding the cost of IVDD surgery for your dog is to speak to your veterinary professional.
The Success Rate of IVDD Surgery In Dogs
Surgery is typically very successful in the majority of cases. Outcomes are most successful in dogs that have not lost their ability to walk. In dogs that have had ongoing symptoms of IVDD atrophy of the spinal cord can occur and lead to less successful outcomes.
If IVDD surgery is not successful in returning your pet to normal mobility, a dog wheelchair can help your pup enjoy a happy and active life while living with Intervertebral Disc Disease. Recovery from IVDD surgery requires 6 to 8 weeks of restricted activity combined with appropriate medications, to help with pain management and swelling. Your vet may also recommend physical rehabilitation (physical therapy for dogs) to help your pet recover.
Considering Euthanasia For Dogs With IVDD
Many distraught pet parents ask us whether they should consider euthanasia for a dog with severe IVDD. If you're the owner of a dog that has been diagnosed with severe IVDD you are likely facing some very difficult questions regarding treatment for your cherished pet. Your vet will be sure to explain the available treatment options, and the likely outcome for each. Caring for a dog that is recovering from IVDD can be time-consuming and costly whether you opt for surgical or non-surgical treatment.
Every pet is different and your dog's prognosis will depend on several factors including their age, the severity of the spinal injury, where on the spine the injury is located, and the length of time between symptoms appearing and treatment. Your vet will carefully and compassionately explain your dog's likelihood of recovery so that you can make an informed treatment decision. If you are considering euthanasia for your dog following an IVDD diagnosis, speak to your vet openly and honestly, they have been trained to help you make the best decision for you and your pet.
Veterinary Surgery at St. Francis Veterinary Hospital
At our Lafayette animal clinic, we offer comprehensive surgical options for treating various soft tissue and orthopedic disorders. Depending on your pup’s condition, your vet can perform a detailed examination and discuss recommended diagnostic tests, procedures, risks, and expected outcomes with you.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.