How to help a dog with IVDD - Salt Lake Animal Physical Therapy
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How to help a dog with IVDD

Ways you can improve the quality of life of a dog suffering from IVDD

Let’s begin by understanding what is IVDD or Intervertebral disc disease.

IVDD is a degenerative disease that affects dogs’ spinal cord, causing pain and mobility issues. The cushioning discs that cushion the spinal vertebrae and the bones surrounding the spinal vertebrae begin to harden. As the cushioning discs deteriorate, they cease to provide cushioning support to the spine. It is possible for them to bulge or rupture, causing damage to the dog’s spinal cord. This aging process gradually weakens dogs’ spines and leaves them at the risk of various other health concerns. Sometimes, a sudden injury or bad jump can also cause the cushioning discs to burst and press into the nerves in the spinal cord. The damage to these nerves can further affect the nerve impulses, causing impairment in the bladder, and bowel control, possibly leading to paralysis.

Breeds that are more susceptible to IVDD

Although IVDD can affect any dog, dwarfed breeds are the most commonly affected. Certain breeds that are at an increased risk for IVDD are Beagle, Cocker Spaniel, Shih Tzu, Jack Russel Terrier, French bulldog, Miniature Poodle, and Lhasa Apso. IVDD can also affect the larger breeds such as German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and Dobermans. I have personally seen many Pitbulls with disc herniations as well.

Symptoms of IVDD

IVDD can manifest in various ways in a dog. Some of the following signs are what our canine friends go through when they have IVDD:

  1. Pain in the neck or the back is the most common symptom of IVDD.
  2. Dogs with IVDD become weak; their limb movements become uncoordinated.
  3. Many might also start limping and have trouble walking or carrying out energetic activities such as running or playing.
  4. In case you notice your canine shivering or trying to catch a breath, it could be that they have IVDD.
  5. Dogs with IVDD also have hunched back and stiffness in movement and appearance.
  6. As IVDD, in simple terms, is nerve damage in the spine, it causes impairment in various bodily functions, such as poor bladder functioning, urinary incontinence, and loss of bowel control.
  7. In some extreme cases, canines lose complete control of their limbs and become paralyzed.
However, it is essential to note that IVDD lies on a spectrum and might affect each dog differently and in different intensities. The cases falling on the lower end of the spectrum do not usually require surgical treatment and can benefit tremendously from extra love and care.

What you can do about it

You can help your canine buddy cope better with IVDD and lead more comfortable lives in the following ways –
  • Maintaining a healthy diet – As a pet owner, you should include healthy foods in your canine’s diet and cut as much snacking as possible. It will give them the much-needed energy and strength to cope with IVDD. In case, your dog is overweight, exercises advised by a physical therapist can help reduce their weight and reduce the stress on their neck and backbone.
  • Eliminating stress on the back and neck – Avoid putting unnecessary extra pressure on your dog’s back and neck. This action can prevent IVDD from progressing in cases falling on the lower end of the spectrum. You can achieve this by using raised food and water bowls. Elevated food and water bowls will save your dog the effort of bending down and help relieve the spine from any pain and unnecessary stress. To reduce the stress on the neck, one should also avoid putting collars and head harnesses on their dog. Trying to control the dog’s movement while walking them through collars or head harnesses can do more harm than good. Sudden jerks can cause further nerve damage and pain.
  • A comfortable crate to rest – Besides the above measures, your dog also needs a comfortable place to relax. Crates with a raised platform will help your dog avoid looking up, ultimately reducing neck and back pain. Ensure that the crate has bedding that is soft, supportive, and well-padded. In this way, your dog would not have to face any extra pressure and pain in its back and neck. Resting in these comfortable crates will help your dog by providing comfort, helping to get good sleep, and giving their bodies time to healthemselves.
  • Handling and picking up your dog – Did you know that something as minor as the way of holding a dog can play a crucial role in their overall quality of life? If, at any time, you pick up your canine, make sure that you do not just hold them from behind their front limbs and leave their bodies hanging mid-air. Support their entire bodies by keeping an arm underneath. It will provide them with both support and comfort and prevent their backs from turning painful.

Can a dog recover from IVDD?

Last but not least, a vital measure to keep your dog in good health is
to take them to a physical therapist regularly. A physical therapist will accurately assess your dog’s IVDD condition and accordingly recommend treatment plans. For mild to moderate cases of IVDD, physical therapy combined with at-home treatment as prescribed by the therapist can work wonders.

Therapies such as heat therapy, nuerodynamic sequencing, needling, pulsed electromagnetic field therapy and many others can help a great deal by reducing pain, swelling, muscle pressure, and tension. These therapies will increase blood flow and encourage the body to heal itself naturally.

We understand that living with a dog suffering from IVDD can be challenging for both the dog and the owner. Seeing your dog struggle, even after consistent attempts, can be disheartening. At these times, make sure that you provide your dogs with lots of love and warmth. Motivate them to heal and provide them with a stress-free and calm environment!

For mor info check out our IVDD page: