Stages of IVDD in Dogs - Salt Lake Animal Physical Therapy
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IVDD in Dogs Stages: A comprehensive guide to understanding different stages 

This blog breaks down various IVDD in dog stages. So, if the condition affects your dog, this blog can help you take timely counteractions.

A dog at home means always having a companion, rain or shine. And it is heart-wrenching to see your doggo suffering from a disease. Especially something as cruel as IVDD or Intervertebral Disc Disease. 

It is a severe and common spinal condition in dogs that causes spinal compression and needs prompt care and attention. The intervertebral disc is a cushion between bones present in the spinal cord. When this disc becomes compressed, it causes spinal pain and sometimes nerve pain as well. 

Most dogs experience mild pain that graduates to unbearable pain if not dealt with on time. Eventually, they lose the ability to stand and perform fundamental movements. 

5 Stages of IVDD in dogs  

There are five stages of dog IVDD. The symptoms and signs for each IVDD stage are different and may vary; from mild to extreme. 

The stages may progress over days, weeks, or in rare cases, within a day. 


    This is the first and the least severe stage of IVDD. At this stage, your dog may experience mild pain in the neck or back. However, there are no other neurological deficits. Even in the first stage of IVDD, your dog may still be able to walk or stand.

    But if you notice carefully, the movements may be stiffer than usual. Dogs in this stage show limited movement and prefer resting until the compressed disc self-heals. Your dog may hold their head lower or not turn it at all until they feel fully recovered. 
  • IVDD STAGE 2: The second stage of IVDD comes with its struggles and symptoms. Your dog can walk but may face difficulty with paw placement. Some symptoms and signs during this stage include paw knuckling, ataxia, and lack of coordination. 

Your dog may experience moderate to severe pain in the cervical or lumbar areas. Most dogs in this stage tend to yelp or show an unusually aggressive side because of the pain they are experiencing. Movement becomes difficult for them. 


Among the 5 IVDD in dogs stages, this is the third stage. Dogs in this stage experience partial paralysis. They may face difficulty in walking, the ability to stand, or even coordinating. 

Partial paralysis is also known as paresis. Your dog may be able to move its legs, but it gets harder to stand or walk. It is normal if your dog is knuckling or dragging. 

  • IVDD STAGE 4: 

This is the fourth stage of canine IVDD. Your dog, when in stage 4, will experience complete paralysis. It means they will lose their ability to walk or stand and lose all capacity for movement. 

However, they may still be able to feel the pain sensation in their limbs. Most people judge the pain sensation of their dogs by pinching them on their toes. They can determine whether the dog can retain the pain sensation by their response. 


    This is the last stage. During this stage, a dog experiences complete paralysis and loses all pain sensations within its limbs. It means neither can they walk nor feel any pain or pinching in their toes. 

IVDD in dogs symptoms

Let us now look at some of the symptoms of this medical condition. You can identify these and take timely actions. 

  • Crying or yelping
  • Limping
  • Inability to walk
  • Difficulty getting up or lying down
  • Facing problems walking up or down the stairs
  • Facing the problem of hopping onto otherwise easy furniture. 
  • Loss of bladder and bowel contro
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Uncoordinated paw placement
  • Discomfort while turning head/neck

Now that you are aware of the symptoms and let us find out…

What causes IVDD in dogs? 

IVDD is an age-related medical condition. It is common in dogs with short and curved limbs, as well as long back dogs. This condition occurs when the ruptured intervertebral discs protrude or get displaced. It causes severe pain and compression in nerves and the spine. 

The causes of this disease are: 

  • Heredity 
  • Sudden force (dog jumping and poor landing )
  • Injury
  • Aging

Alternative to IVDD surgery?

The earliest you detect the symptoms, the more chances you have to stop the condition from worsening. Then, depending on the stages, you seek treatment. 

At all stages, you can fight IVDD with animal physical therapy – a time-tested medicine. It can help recover both physical activity and mental health. 

After proper analysis, a physical/animal therapist will suggest a specialized treatment plan for your canine friends. The professional will assess the nerve function, pain level, balance, mobility, strength, and proprioception. You often need to see your Vet first, as many states require a referral for animal physical therapy or canine rehab. In addition, your Vet can clear the dog for PT and make sure there is not another condition present. 

Once thoroughly familiar with the condition, the expert will devise a treatment plan for your pet. These include regular sessions with an animal therapist and at-home exercises. Of course, you must push your dog to participate in these activities and practices, as they are a vital part of the healing process. 

Dogs affected by IVDD regain their strength and ability to walk with the help of physical therapy. It also helps them do this in a more natural way. 

We hope that you have a good understanding of what IVDD does to a dog, its stages, and its symptoms. Soon we will drop a more comprehensive blog that answers some of the top questions about the diseases on the internet. 

Meanwhile, do not hesitate to share this with someone who needs to read it. 

Dog IVDD, Disc, Back Injury