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The most common spinal cord injury seen in dogs is known as (IVDD) Intervertebral Disc Disease or IVDD. This condition is most common in smaller dogs and dogs with longer spines. Think Dachshunds, Corgis, and Shih Tzu’s for common breeds you’ll see develop the disease. No matter what health issues our pups may have, that won’t get in the way of how much we love them! Making sure we understand their injuries or illnesses is an important step in making sure we can keep them safe.
What is IVDD?
IVDD Also known as Intervertebral Disc Disease is a condition that causes the degradation of the vertebrae/discs in the spine. It causes them to become very brittle. This can lead to them breaking or bursting and cause undue pressure to the spine. There are five different stages and levels of severity of this condition that can change you and your pups’ day-to-day to keep them happy and comfortable.
While medical treatment is always advised, based on your Vet’s recommendations you must be taking other steps to make your home a safe environment for your pet suffering from this spinal issue.
Create a safe space for your pet with IVDD:
With any back injury, a Vet professional will advise and discuss the importance of crate rest. Keeping them comfortable and limiting their mobility will assist in helping the healing process go much smoother. Creating a welcoming and cozy environment to keep your dog in will make it easier for any dog that isn’t a fan of crating as well as help ease some of their pain.
A warm, cozy resting spot
A key aspect to a comfortable and healing space is going to consist of making sure it is warm and cushioned. This will help to reduce some of the pain in the back and make it a much more enticing environment for your dog. You can get heating pads or a pillow that is designed to be heated to give your dog some extra warmth and comfort. If you are using an electric heating pad under their cushions be sure to check it regularly and not to leave it going while you are away to ensure safety.
Bladder health and dealing with urine incontinence
The reality of IVDD is that many dogs become incontinent. Unfortunately, paralysis and incontinence often go hand in hand. A dog with IVDD can still go to the bathroom, but they need may require manual expression. Expressing a dog’s bladder relieves bladder pressure and prevents infection. You may need to manually express a dog’s bowel as well, although only if recommended by your veterinarian. Many IVDD dogs can still go to the bathroom on their own or with a little encouragement and exercise.
If your dog does have incontinence due to their IVDD, having a pee pad under a raised bed is a good way to keep them from sitting at their waist. We recommend the raised bed being about the size of the crate if you intend to use one so there is no drop down where they could hurt themselves. Ideally, you want them to be able to turn around and lay with their legs out in the crate so the size you pick should be big enough to accommodate that. If there are extra gaping use blankets, pillows, and towels to properly secure those areas. In addition, a raised food and water bowl attached to the crate can assist in eliminating the need to bend down which will help avoid extra pressure and stress on the neck and back.
What should a dog with IVDD avoid?:
While the severity of the condition varies from dog to dog there are a few things that across any level of IVDD that you are mindful of to ensure continued healing and safety. You want to minimize the stress put on their back and necks as much as possible. You will want to avoid:
Don’t let pets jump on and off furniture
Doing so can cause more pain and pressure on your dog’s spine. It could even cause another disk to rupture or severely impact recovery from spinal surgery.
Lifting your dog wrong can hurt their back
Always carry your dog carefully. Improperly lifting a dog with an injured back can cause further spinal damage. When a dog has an issue with their spine they must be properly lifted and held to ensure no stress is being placed on their necks or backs. You will need to lift your dog while fully supporting its chest and the rear ends as well. The spine must be level and straight. This can be done by holding your dog up to your chest, ensuring the spinal alignment is not affected.
Limit Rigorous activity
While exercise is a good thing, make sure the activity your dog is getting is the level advised by your vet for your dog’s condition. Too much movement or energy could cause further injury or worsen the preexisting condition. Please follow your vet’s advice on what kind and how much exercise your dog should be doing.
Stop Using collars for walks in dogs with IVDD
If your Vet has advised your dog is all clear to go on walks again make sure they have the proper gear. A walking chest harness is going to be the most supportive for a dog with IVDD and will allow for less direct pressure on your dog’s neck and spine.
Overfeeding is not an issue singular to dogs with IVDD, in any aspect it is not good for your dog. With the combination of low mobility due to their IVDD, it is a slippery slope to weight gain. This needs to be avoided as added pounds put more weight and pressure on your dog’s spine which can interfere with how they heal and even make it easier for them to inflame their IVDD.