IVDD in Dogs: Causes to Prevention

ivdd-information

IVDD in dogs (intervertebral disc disease) has a range of symptoms, from fairly mild to very serious. On one end of the spectrum is mild pain, with paralysis on the other end, and most dogs with the diagnosis falling somewhere in between.

Causes of IVDD

IVDD is a disease that effects the spinal cord over time, but it might not be apparent until there is a trigger. Unfortunately, a dog who appears to be completely healthy one day may take a fall or jump in such a way that a disc becomes ruptured. IVDD is a degenerative (gradual) process, but a jump or fall can damage a disc that has already been weakened by IVDD and bring on an acute phase of the disease.

back brace for ivdd

The disease is caused when the cushioning discs (which function like shock absorbers) between the vertebrae of the spinal column begin to harden. Eventually, they may harden to the point that they can no longer adequately cushion the spinal vertebrae.

Consequently, a forceful jump or bad landing can cause a disc (or discs) to burst and press into the nerves running through the spinal cord. This can be painful and cause nerve damage and/or eventual paralysis.

Alternatively, the hardening of the discs can eventually cause them to bulge and compress the spinal cord. This can damage the nerve impulses such that bladder and bowel control can be impaired, in addition to potentially causing paralysis.

Checklist of IVDD Symptoms

Symptoms can emerge gradually or be intermittent or sudden. While any dog breed can experience IVDD, some breeds are more prone to the disease. Early intervention is crucial in order to minimize the possibility of permanent nerve damage. Here are some common symptoms of IVDD:

Which Breeds Are Most Susceptible?

Certain breeds are more likely to get IVDD due to a disorder of their cartilage formation called chondrodystrophic. The disease generally occurs in these breeds at age 3 to 6 years old. Typical breeds of this type include:

Corgi wheelchair for IVDD
  • Bassett Hounds
  • Beagles
  • Bulldogs
  • Corgis
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Dachshunds (most common)
  • Pekingese
  • Poodles
  • Shih Tzus

Nonchondrodystrophic breeds that are often affected by IVDD include:

  • German Shepherds
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Doberman Pinschers

Overweight dogs in any breed are more likely to get IVDD.

Diagnosis and Treatment of IVDD

German Shepherd Wheelchair Kailua

A veterinary examination will generally include a neurological exam, X-rays, and/or special imaging (myelogram, CT scan, MRI) to locate the source of spinal injury.

If the diagnosis reveals mild to moderate injury, treatment may include the administration of steroids and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling and pain, with confined rest required for four to six weeks or so.

In more severe cases, surgery may be advised to open up the space around the spinal cord. Surgery has a better chance of being successful if the dog has not lost the ability to walk and if surgery is done very soon after diagnosis (within 24 hours). If a dog has already lost the ability to walk before surgery, the prognosis is not optimal.

Post-surgical physical rehabilitation is often recommended for muscle strengthening. If a surgery is not successful, a dog wheelchair is often recommended, which can give the dog a healthy, active life despite the disease.

IVDD Guide

IVDD Back Brace

Helping to relieve a dog’s back pain can provide pain relief and prevent further injuries. An orthopedic back brace can help support your dog’s back and spine as they prepare for surgery or for pet’s looking for a non-surgical option. For dogs with IVDD, the best back brace will feature memory foam layers that conform to the natural contours of their back for optimal support. IVDD back braces support the spine and stabilize the back to promote movement and eliminate back pain.

Crate rest is a key component to any IVDD dog’s recovery process, and although a back brace will not replace crate rest it can play an important part in a dog’s IVDD recovery. Along with rest, mobility assistance and back support are important IVDD solutions to help your dog recover.

IVDD Prevention

There are some easy and practical things a pet owner can do to minimize the risk of IVDD for their pets:

  • Keep your dog’s weight down to reduce neck and back stress, especially for breeds predisposed to the disease.
  • Use a harness when going on walks to reduce neck stress that can occur if using a neck leash. The best harness for IVDD is one that distributes the weight across their chest and away from their neck.
  • Minimize jumping on/off furniture
  • High-risk dog breeds with long backs, such as dachshunds, need to be supported when picked up. Dachshunds should only be picked up when their entire body is supported from underneath by your arm. Never pick up a dachshund from behind their front legs with their body dangling, this is bad for their back.
  • Finally, consider a back brace to minimize risk.

IVDD recovery is a long process, be patient and follow your Veterinarian’s guidance to help your dog heal.

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51 thoughts on “IVDD in Dogs: Causes to Prevention

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  5. After my dog was whimpering I took her to the vet – after xrays they gave me paperwork to read up on about degenerative disc disease and gave me gabapentin for pain . Is there anything I should be doing for further treatment so I can help her ?

    1. Hi Roseann,

      Work with your Vet to develop a treatment plan for your dog, and take the time to research IVDD. There is a lot of information available and it can really help you to ask the right questions when you’re speaking with your Vet. Many dogs with IVDD benefit from wearing a back brace and will use a wheelchair to help them get around. If you have any questions, please call us at 888-253-0777

    2. My young Doxie had this. With daily water therapy in my bathtub she made amazing recovery!
      My vet was v supportive.
      Good luck
      Ann and Gretl

      1. Good morning
        I just read your comment and my Daschund is 5 and suddenly collapsed today while chasing his ball. Took him to the vet because he was crying too. They told me he has ivvd. What did you do to help your daschund? Did he got a surgery? Or just treatment? I need some tips and we are devastated right now. Thank you

  6. My dog has the same thing. My dog vet told us that is going to take some time for him to he has to stay in his create all day
    if he doesnt get better soon we will have to put him down. He is drag his feet when he is outside to go to the bathroom ,he is drink and eating just fine

    1. Hi Madison,

      It sounds like your dog still has a lot of life left in him, there are options available beyond euthanasia. I’ve heard countless stories of dog’s with IVDD who have gone on the live to happy, active lives with the help of a dog wheelchair or back brace. If you have any questions about the different options available, give us a call at 888-253-0777 we’re happy to help you.

  7. My 7 yr old chihuahua was diagnosed two weeks ago. Episodes started 7 months ago. (But misdiagnosed until now). Episodes ever 2-6 weeks. Cervical. Only symptom is left front lameness that can last anywhere from 1-24 hrs.
    Is it too late for this to heal correctly with activity restriction? We’ve been fairly strict but she moved wrong this morning and is now having an episode.

    1. I would recommend speaking with an animal rehab facility, for them to assess your dog’s condition. Depending on the severity of your dog’s case it’s possible your dog can strengthen their front leg and work to improve the overall function. Most likely, your therapist will create a treatment plan to build up your dog’s strength through a series of exercises, or even hydrotherapy and may recommend using rehab tools like the Front No-Knuckling Training Sock.

  8. Hi need advice my dog all of a sudden started limping on her left leg and now every time she stand or trys to walk she wobbles and falls I phoned vet pdsa and they said dogs leg wasn’t an emergency but I think it was so I took to emergency vet some where else they gave her the once over and said she is paralized gave medication and said I needed to go back to own vets PDSA and get tests done took my shih tzu there and they just read what the other vet had put and said they can’t help our fur baby as we need a £5000 to see a norolagist specialist .our dog is eatiñg and drinks and goes to toilet fine but we have to support her back legs with a scarf and it support her when walking her legs are in sink when she walk and walks fine vets said if there is no improvement in two weeks on medication then we will have to put her to sleep. Just wondering if anyone has had this problem with there dog and can you get a payment plan for costs of treatment for test to be done scans ext we don’t want to loose our baby she is alright in herself its just her legs that are making her poorly she is still wagging her tall and moving her head fine and we have seen her stretch her back legs out shortly if she was totally parolized she could do this because she would feel her legs I’m so confused and need as much advice as possible vet at pdsa didn’t want to know didn’t even check her over like first vet did I don’t want to loose my little dog she means everything to me and my daughter and we haven’t stopped cryingp pdsa won’t help because I’m on benefits and said its going to cost £5000 to see a mariology specialist but me and my daughter are willing to do a payment plan if we can need advice please

    1. Hi Tracey,

      I’m so sorry to hear about your dog. This is very common, as long as your dog is is otherwise healthy there is no reason why she can’t go on to live a long and happy life. If she is getting around well with you supporting her back legs, then it sounds like she’d do very well in a wheelchair. If you need any advice, please call us at 888-253-0777, we’re happy to answer any of your questions.

    2. If she’s still wagging her tail, she hasn’t lost sensation , yet. From what I just recently learned about IVDD, that they can get surgery and have a 50/50 chance of improvement. I’m not a veterinary professional, but I do love animals and believe that they all deserve a chance. My dogs have always been part of my family. Their is a plan called Care Credit that you can apply for to receive medical help with your girl and make payments. There are also wheelchairs, slings and back braces. I would take her to see a Neurologist. They KNOW the entire system and can do imaging to find out exactly what’s going on. It’s costly, but, that’s what I did. Unfortunately, too late! You have options if she’s still wagging her tail! I wish you the best of luck.

  9. My shih tzu has been to the vet three times in the last week due to having a hunched back, keeping his head down, and having many episodes of yelping from the pain he is in. They have done bloodwork and xrays but haven’t been able to give me a definitive answer. We are giving him the medications they have provided to us but they are not working well enough. He continues to have pain in the afternoon/evening right before he is due for his next round of pain and anti-inflammatory medications. Is there anyone who can give me some actual useful information as to what is wrong with him. We are out of pocket $600 and don’t have a definitive answer as to what is wrong with him. I am thinking of getting him some type of strong hip and joint supplements but don’t know how effective that will be. Any useful information as to what is wrong will help.

    Thanks

    1. It’s Ivdd sounds like , my dog had it and she was on fentanyl patch predisone tramadol and gabapentin very painful

    2. I have a shih tzu aswell. He hurt himself ten days ago. He has a pinched nerve on his back and neck pain as well. He is on pain and anti inflammatory meds. I have have been using warm compress on his back and it has been very affective. Id love to hear how your dog is doing now?

  10. My daughter’s dog of about 65 lbs suffered 3 ruptured discs of which they had surgery on it about 5 weeks ago. Although the Vet said he expected a good recovery, Winnie is paralyzed in her back end and also incontinent. My daughter is devoted to caring for her but it requires 24/7 round the clock care. So far no improvements have been seen. Just yesterday, she spent 2 hours taking Winnie for acupuncture and water therapy treatments. She was told that after a few treatments, they would be able to see if she is being helped in any way. Winnie is only 4 1/2 yrs old. Not to mention the thousands of dollars already spent and to be spent, it is devastating to have to make a decision eventually if no progress is seen. Her family is already heartbroken thinking of what may lay ahead. To what point do you think quality of life for the dog should come into play here. From her chest area up, Winnie is a sweetheart but cannot enjoy all or even part of what she loved to do. And how long does one wait to see and/or hope for some medical miracle? It’s just so sad. Any comments are greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    1. Hi Dorothy,
      I’m so sorry to hear what happened to Winnie. Every case and every dog is so different, but I will say that we see and hear about positive outcomes for dogs with IVDD all the time. It can take time and a lot of patience. Your daughter should speak with her Vet about how she’s feeling, what signs she should be looking for, and working with a canine rehab therapist is an important first step to getting Winnie back on her feet!

  11. I have a 7 year old maltipoo, Romeo. I think he might injure himself by jumping and trigger whatever is the underlying issue that is going on with him.
    It started in May of 2019; he mild symptoms seemed sick, vet said they think he hurti himself jumping etc. was given a week or so of anti inflammatories then was ok.
    Then in Dec of 2019, he seemed sick, was the worst in the morning, he would hunch his neck and walk around like he was in pain. Then after about 1.5 hrs he was ok & back to normal. Then some days having issues throughout the day.
    Vet gave him anti inflammatory first just in morning, then had to give small dose at night and dose in morning, that’s the only way he wasn’t having the 1.5 issue in morning.
    Blood tests, x rays, no diagnosis. Then on Xmas day he had what seemed like a muscle spasm ( just guessing) I was holding him and he was pushing his front leg up and back legs up, or he couldn’t help it and his body was. Then after 5 min he was ok.
    I took him to a neurologist, they couldn’t find anything, next step is MRI, but I had to take him off of anti inflammatory’s first. Also MRI is dangerous for him because he is small, nervous, and has a mild heart murmur was told he has to see cardiologist first.
    He was on anti inflammatory for a while, so then after I took him off, he seemed ok for the most part.
    But some days has issues. Especially when he jumps, he has stairs but doesn’t always use them.
    So yesterday he jumped off couch weird, then later in day was standing and his one paw so like being forced to go up, then he fell. 5 min later he was ok.
    Does this sound like Ivdd?

    1. Hi Julie,

      I’m so sorry to hear about the ordeal that you and your dog has been through. A lot of the symptoms you’re describing could be caused by IVDD or some other disc issue. I would keep advocating for your dog and make sure he gets the treatment he needs. It’s not uncommon for a dog with IVDD to have flairs ups. I would certainly try to keep him from jumping which can worsen spinal pain, and he may be hesitant on the stairs due to pain or a sense that he can’t control his movements on the stairs. I would recommend carrying him on the stairs or using an assistive device like a harness to help him feel supported on the stairs. And I would bring your dog back to the Vet it sounds like he may still need their help. If you have any questions, please call us at 888-253-0777 we’re happy to help answer your questions.

  12. My 8 year old shitzu poo is around 9 pounds and started acting weird about two years ago and ended up losing feeling in his neck and front leg. He was diagnosed with meningitis and disc disease. He made a full recovery after being put on a steroid and now two years later started hunching over and lifts up his back left leg. The vet said he might have problems with the lumbar region in his back and some neurological damage. He’s been on the same medicine he was years ago for a week and we’ve seen no improvement. We don’t know what to do anymore. My parents have already spent so much money on tests and no one really seems to have an answer for him.

    1. Hi Taylor,
      I’m sorry to hear everything you and your pup have been through the last two years. You mentioned that the vet said their might be lumbar issues, have you seen any sign of this? Any sign of lower back pain or mobility problems? The vertebraVe back brace is designed to support and alleviate pain in the lumbar area. Please call us at 888-253-0777 so we can talk more about what he’s experiencing, we may be able to offer you some guidance.

  13. My beagle lucy has had a slipped disc in her neck for 2 weeks now. She started to get better yesterday and then by night she was worse than before. I am looking for some advice because i cant afford the $7000 surgery

    1. HI Michael,

      I’m so sorry to hear about Lucy. Have you spoken with your Vet about other options beyond surgery? There may be another way to medically manage her slipped disc, such as physical therapy or even acupuncture.

  14. My dog has suffered from what the vet believes is IVDD and has been paralyzed in the rear legs, my fiancé and I have been completely struggling with dealing with her not being herself. We lay her down and feed her and give her tramadol, carprofen, gabapentin, and another nerve medicine I can’t remember the name of. We often worry when we see her shaking or whimpering and her eyes just look so down and like she can barely hold them open. Are we over reacting or is it completely normal for a dog to act like this when under those meds?

  15. Ivdd is very painful . No you are not overreacting it’s hard
    To see your babies in pain , my dog was put on a fentanyl patch as well and predisone , it takes time for this to heal
    Crate rest 4-6 weeks my vet said . Best of luck

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  18. Hi my name is Jordan and we have a Dachshund dog that has this and we just started taking care of it since I started getting very worried about it we tried dealing with it when he was like 2 he’s 3 rn and we have been trying to take him on walks but due to the really bad weather, it’s been hard to get walks in even after I take him on a walk he would be fine for a while then just go back to himself. Recently he hasn’t been sitting in his normal rolliepolly pose to make it so he can sleep without hurting. Also, how does one get hydrotherapy? I don’t know if him sitting straight like means he’s getting better or worse also it been difficult to walk him also because most of the time I have to carry him to a far place because he refuses to walk forward and I refuse to harm him or damage his neck or anything by pulling him he only would want to walk back home so I have to carry him to a far place so he can get any type of exercise in.

    1. Hi Jordan – If you haven’t already, I would recommend bringing your dachshund to the vets to get checked out. Dachshunds have a lot of back problems, many of which can be painful and lead to mobility loss. Catching back issues early can make a big difference. Your vet should also be able to tell you local canine therapists in the area that offer hydrotherapy. If you have any questions, please call us at 888-253-0777, we’re happy to help!

  19. I have a 12 year old miniature dachshund that I think just had an event that caused IVDD. She was at the vet for coughing and I couldn’t be with her because of Covid, but they said that she was jumping in the cage and then vomited and ever since she vomited she hasn’t been the same. Her breathing is shallow and labored. She can still walk a little and she can squat to go pee, but she won’t eat anything. This is especially unusual for her because she’s OBSESSED with food. She will drink water, but I’m concerned about the breathing and not eating. The vet gave her gabapentin, but it doesn’t seem to be helping much. Any suggestions? In your opinion, because of her age and not eating, am I looking at euthanasia?

    1. Hi Sarah – I’m so sorry that your mini dachshund isn’t doing well. I would recommend talking to your Vet, they know better than anyone your dog’s condition and what will be best for her. I will say that euthanasia isn’t usually the only option available to you, ask your Vet if there are other treatment plans available. Many dog’s with IVDD benefit from surgical intervention, rehab therapy, back support, or mobility devices. If it is IVDD there may be ways to treat you dog’s condition, the important thing is to advocate for your dog and continue to ask your Vet all of your questions.

  20. My beautiful chihuahua mix started having severe pain 2 weeks ago, wouldn’t come out of her crate, yelped and nipped when you tried to pick her up or touch her. After a few visits to the vet, x-ray showed “crystals” in her lower spine? Vet said could be disc disease brought on by an injury. Vet prescribed antibiotics (because she also had 104f temp at 2nd visit) steroid injection, muscle relaxer and gabapentin. I am also giving her hip & joint supplements. There has not been any improvement. She does not drink or eat much and will only come out of her crate when she has to potty which is only twice daily. When I try to coax her out or reach for her she will Yelp and nip…has become extremely guarded.
    Do you know of any specialists in Florida?

  21. Morning All.

    My name is Paul from Johannesburg, South Africa.

    Our Dachshund (Duke – 6 years) suddenly became lame, went to the vet, stay overnight etc etc and then told us he had a disk issue.

    Opened him up and his spine looked healthy and after a while Duke came home.

    Happy Days!!

    I had my opinion originally which differed from my Girlfriends, but we have got past that.

    It is nearly 4 months later and he was doing alright with the physio and all that, we went away for a week and the sitter knew what to do and when we got back he was at stage 1.

    Anyway I digress with the story – the lad is full of beans and life.

    He has wheels and runs/barks and carries on like he is the biggest dog on the street, he also thinks the same at home and slips out and drags himself which has caused some open wounds on his ankle/shank. (not huge – imagine a kid picking a scab type thing)

    We try this and that – the girlfriend has creams/a lazer thing but we cant protect them, and we can’t stop him being a Lad and jumping and dashing.

    Any ideas what I can do or put on his back legs to protect the rubbing when he is not in his wheels?

    1. Hi Paul – It sounds like Duke has a ton of energy! You can protect his chest and legs from rubbing in a few different way when he’s not in his wheelchair. Both the Drag Bag and the Scooter are great for indoor mobility and protecting his limbs when he scoots and dashes around!

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  23. Hello everyone…my dog a 12 year old dachshund is getting peculiar attacks for the last one week. After he has rested or is sleeping and makes a sudden movement,he yelps in pain and runs away or walks in a painful twisted way ..this attack lasts for a minute or two and then he is fine again. It typically happens when he makes a sudden movement in fast sleep. He does tend to limp slightly. Can disc disease cause very interemittent spasms especially after a period of rest?

    1. Dr. Kothari – IVDD usually presents as sudden pain followed by an inability to walk. It does sounds like your dachshund is experiencing some kind back issue whether its in the discs, a pinched nerve or some other back-related issue, it sounds like he need spinal support when he sleeps. A back brace, like the vertebraVe, can be used to support the spine and limit range of motion. It may help to prevent those sudden movements that are causing him so much pain and discomfort at night.

  24. Hi there. I am now caring for my almost 13 year old Maltese after being a family dog who was living with other relatives for a few years before this. I know that he has IVDD, he has been to the vet a few times (different ones) and they have all said it was neurological. He’s been prescribed gabapentin, and it’s really helped with pain management. I am not looking get him surgery, as he is mostly completely mobile and is very lively for his age and condition. He just has a hard time lifting his head and I feel so bad. Is there anything else I can do that could help him at this point? I know that he has had IVDD for a few years now, maybe around 3 or 4.

    1. Hi Courtney, I’m so sorry your maltese is struggling with IVDD. Have you considered back support like a dog back brace. Providing back support can help relieve spinal pain while also supporting the back. It might help keep him more comfortable.

  25. Hello everyone. My 9 y/o pug’s back legs have been sliding out from under her every now an then for the last 4 months. Most recently, she has been dragging the top of her right front paw at times for the last 3-4 weeks. She has her days when she walks fine and other days where I hear her nails scuffing on the floor. An MRI was done, her whole cervical spine is herniated, with moderate to severe compression of the spinal cord. She was started on Dexamethasone 0.5mg twice a day and placed on “strict bed rest”. The neurosurgeon does not want to do surgery because of the multiple levels involved. I am now afraid with any sudden movement she may become paralyzed.

    Do you have any recommendations to keep these multi-level herniations stable? Thank you so much!

  26. My longed hair dachshund has a bad disc on his neck. He got Gabapentin, and Prednisone but for some reason it does not seem to do much … He is in constant pain no matter how much I try to make him comfortable and he is losing function on his front paws 🙁 I am very desperate and really want to get him surgery but I am also a full time student and unable to cover the expenses. I had to set up a go fund me page for my poor baby because I really do not know what else to do.

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