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.

Learn More: IVDD Solutions

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.
  • Minimize jumping on/off furniture
  • Finally, consider a back brace to minimize risk.

See All Walkin' Pets Products Boston Terrier Back Brace

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31 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

  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.

  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

  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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