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Intervertebral Disc Disease is a spinal condition that impacts a dog’s leg strength and ability to walk normally. Following a spinal disc rupture, it’s not uncommon for a dog to be unable to use its back legs. This paralysis may be temporary or permanent.
Breeds like the Dachshund, Corgi, or Basset Hound are at high risk for IVDD due to their long torso and short legs. But, even knowing your dog is considered high risk doesn’t prepare you for the reality of caring for a dog with Intervertebral Disc Disease. Although your dog’s recovery can be a slow and lengthy process, some incredible tools can help improve your dog’s mobility as they heal.
Paralysis caused by IVDD is one of the most common reasons a dog needs a wheelchair. In addition, depending on the location and severity of the disc rupture, IVDD can limit a dog’s hind leg function. A wheelchair gives dogs the support they need to regain independence and stay active.
Can a dog with IVDD use a wheelchair?
Yes, a dog diagnosed with IVDD can use a wheelchair, and many do. However, crate rest is critical to a dog’s Intervertebral Disc Disease recovery, and you should not encourage your dog to exercise without veterinary approval. Getting the proper fit is critical for dogs with a spinal condition. We recommend that you work with your veterinarian or a wheelchair expert to ensure your dog is comfortable and getting the support they need.
One of the many benefits of a dog wheelchair is that the cart can be easily incorporated into your pet’s rehabilitation program. Many rehabilitation experts will use a canine cart to reduce the pressure on the dog’s back legs and encourage the dog to stay active. The dog can evenly safely use the wheelchair while on the underwater treadmill.
“Ashildr became paralyzed in her back legs from stage 5 IVDD and needed emergency surgery. Later, she was diagnosed with focal mylomelasia. Yesterday she took a stroll in her wheels to the park across the street for the first time since her injury. All in all, she ended up walking around a mile! Mommy and daddy were very proud!”
– Ashildr’s parents
What to look for in an IVDD wheelchair:
An adjustable dog wheelchair – an adjustable cart allows you to modify the height, length, and width of your wheelchair. As a dog recovers, it may experience weight fluctuation and may need to change the wheelchair height as it can place more weight on its back legs. An adjustable cart will allow you to modify the fit as your dog heals.
Mid-body support – it’s vital that your dog’s spine stays level. Therefore, a belly belt or belly support should always be worn by a dog with a spinal condition. The belly support will gently lift the center of your dog’s body and support directly under the abdomen for proper alignment.
Stirrups for the back legs. – The stirrups safely lift a paralyzed dog’s paws off the ground, so they don’t drag. Dogs that regain leg function over time can remove the stirrups and begin to move their back legs again.
Back Braces for Intervertebral Disc Disease
A back brace helps stabilize your dog’s spine, limit the range of motion, and relieve back pain, which is crucial during a dog’s IVDD recovery.
What to look for in an IVDD back support:
Memory foam support. – Not only does memory foam act as cushioning, but the foam also uses the dog’s natural body heat to conform the foam around the spine for a custom-fitting brace. This supports not just the spinal column but the muscles surrounding the spine.
Support directly over the spine. – Many canine back braces only support the sides of the dog’s body, which helps restrict the range of motion but doesn’t support the dog’s back. Placing rigid support directly along the spine and to the sides of the spine offers the dog optimal back support.
Mesh paneling – Most back braces are intended to be worn all day. Choosing a back brace with mesh sides will keep your dog cool and comfortable all day.
Lumbar support – supporting the lower spine is essential for dogs with disc ruptures in their lumbar spine.
Safely Lifting a Dog with a Bad Back
Even a dog that can move its back legs will require support. Intervertebral Disc Disease can cause weakness in the hind legs and impact a dog’s balance. Your pet may need assistance to walk and stay upright. When carrying a dog with IVDD, its spine must always be kept level and supported.
A support sling wraps around the center of the dog’s body and is a simple, effective way to help your dog without placing additional strain on the spine.
What to look for in an IVDD Lifting Harness
There are many different styles of lifting harnesses on the market. Each one is designed to support a different part of a dog’s body and can be used for different reasons. Dogs with Intervertebral Disc Disease need to make sure that their harness is supporting them correctly.
Supporting the center of the dog’s body. – Look for a soft, flexible sling that lifts the center of the body. Support too far in the hind end may cause you to lift your dog’s legs off the ground and place strain on the spine.
Leave space for the dog to pee and poop cleanly. – Make sure that the harness you select doesn’t impede your dog’s ability to relieve themselves.
Adjustable handles. – An adjustable handle allows you to hold your dog at a level that’s comfortable for you. The ability to lengthen the handles will let you support your dog without straining and hurting your back.
Even if your dog is paralyzed, don’t give up hope. With the right tools, dogs with Intervertebral Disc Disease can live a long, happy life.