Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) in Dog
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Everything you need to know about Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) in Dogs!

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

  • What is IVDD
  • What causes IVDD in dogs?
  • Symptoms of IVDD in dogs
  • Types of IVDD
  • Dog Breeds More Susceptible to IVDD
  • Diagnosis, Treatment and DIY home Care
  • Physical Therapy for IVDD

Wondering why your dog has been shivering lately, finding it hard to walk, yelping hysterically, or has his head hanging low? While these are some prominent signs that your dog may be suffering from IVDD, a degenerative disease of the spine that is quite painful, some subtle signs may go unnoticed, which can help detect the onset of IVDD early on to avoid the disease altogether. And though it is scary at first, there are ways to combat this life-threatening disease. 

What is IVDD? And should I be concerned? 

IVDD is a short form of Intervertebral disc disease. It is a critical medical condition that negatively impacts your pup’s life and can even cause full-body paralysis. And unfortunately, it is also one of the most common spinal diseases in dogs, especially in some breeds, which we will talk about later in this article. 

Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) in dogs, simply put, is a slipped or ruptured disk that can cause mobility issues in dogs that cause frequent bouts of painful screeches or yelps, partial or complete immobility depending upon the stage of the disease. 

What causes IVDD in dogs?

Aging is the primary factor that leads to IVDD in canines. It builds up gradually and goes unnoticed, but one sudden jerk, jump, or movement can trigger the painful symptoms. IVDD affects the Intervertebral discs that are the shock absorbers of the body. And in severe cases, IVDD completely disables the shock-absorbing ability of the spine, causing a ruptured spine which is very painful as you can imagine.

IVDD is a progressive disease, of which early treatment can help avoid its progress, and your dogs can enjoy a healthy, -normal life. Knowing these symptoms is the first and foremost preventive measure that every dog owner must know. 

Symptoms of IVDD in dogs

The symptoms of IVDD depend on the part of the spine affected. The severity of the damage causes dogs to exhibit different reactions. 

Primarily, there are three classes in IVDD depending on the region of the spine it affects. 

  1. Cervical IVDD affects the neck region of the spine

Symptoms include: 

  • Arching back 
  • Head held low
  • Reluctance in movement
  • Unsteady legs
  • Shivering 
  • Crying
  • Abnormal walk or gait
  • Struggling to support own weight
  • Unable to stand
  • Numbness of limbs

2. Thoracolumbar IVDD affects upper to mid-back region

Symptoms include: 

  • Spasms
  • Weak hind legs
  • Tension in belly 
  • Awkward back leg crossing while walking
  • Inability to walk normally
  • Knuckling or dragging of rear legs
  • Unable to support body weight
  • Lack of sensation in back legs

3. Lumbosacral IVDD impacts the lower back area

  • Exhibits pain in movement, even while walking
  • Reluctant to jump
  • Dilated anus
  • Limping tail 
  • Urinary or fecal incontinence

Dog Breeds More Susceptible to IVDD

Although all dogs can develop this degenerative disease, some dogs with long backs and small limbs, such as Dachshunds, tend to suffer from IVDD.

 So if you have one of the breeds of dogs mentioned in the list below, you need to be vigilant for IVDD symptoms we’ve talked about so far.

  • Beagles
  • Dachshunds
  • Pekingese 
  • Shih Tzus
  • Basset hounds
  • American cocker spaniels 

Again, remember that this list only suggests dog breeds with a higher chance of developing IVDD and does not mean your Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, or Labrador is immune from it. They may develop IVDD too. 

Diagnosis, treatment, and DIY home care for a dog suffering from IVDD

Diagnosis of IVDD: MRI scan is by far the most accurate and fast method that helps locate the IVDD affected region of the spine. It reveals the spine structure, nerves, bones, and discs, facilitating accurate and timely diagnosis. However, these are often expensive and unrealistic. Your Veterinarian may recognize signs of IVDD. In addition, a visit with a certified canine rehab therapist will help provide answers via a thorough neurological and musculoskeletal assessment.
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Treatment of IVDD: As soon as you notice symptoms of IVDD, opt for IVDD treatment without a day’s delay. But ensure that you take your dog to a reliable vet or a  physical therapist. But here comes the catch. Although medication and surgery are effective, they are costly, risky, and toll-taking for you and your dog. On the other hand, physical therapy can offer a non-invasive, lasting solution to the disease. 

An empathetic, carefully designed, three-step, non-invasive physical therapy procedure can help your dog get their life back. It is a tried and tested method that has helped many dog owners reverse IVDD.

Even if you opt for surgery, physical therapy is the necessary next step needed to strengthen the muscles and gain mobility through various guided exercises. 

DIY home care for a dog with IVDD

It all comes down to how much effort and care you can put in to ensure your canine’s suffering is lessened and even reversed. 

But everything you do has to be well planned, well designed, and carefully conducted, keeping in mind the severity or mildness of IVDD. 

  • Manage diet to improve calcium for bone health and get essential minerals and nutrients to help battle the disease. 
  • Manage weight to reduce pressure on the spine, neck, lower back, and joints.
  • Regular short walks, done slowly, can keep the dog from maintaining movement, avoid joints from stiffening up and help the weight loss regime. But for more severe cases, where the dogs cannot move at all, avoid walks. 
  • Keep them hydrated, as the condition causes them to pant more than usual, which leads to dryness and loss of fluids. Water not only helps restore the lost fluids but hydrates the whole nervous system. 

These are only some of the many things you can do to manage your dog’s IVDD. but it is essential to consult an expert before you do so.

Finally, IVDD is a disease that impacts more than 2% of dogs, according to the stats established by studies on IVDD in dogs. You are not alone in this battle, and you have cases where the IVDD has completely reversed. More often than not, it is the owner’s commitment to their dog’s recovery, more than anything else, that makes the win possible. 

If you too wish to reverse IVDD, get in touch with us. We are a trusted Physical therapy clinic for dogs that helps injured or aging dogs live their best lives without pain meds or surgery.