For dogs suffering from IVDD (intervertebral disc disease), surgery is often the best treatment option. IVDD surgeries aim to restore mobility, reduce pain and prevent further disc problems. Today, our Las Vegas vets explain more about IVDD surgery for dogs. 

Your Dog's Intervertebral Discs

The intervertebral disc is a gelatinous inner substance surrounded by a ring of fibrous tissue. Intervertebral discs give the spine flexibility and help to cushion the load to the spine whenever your dog is doing movements such as running or jumping.

IVDD in Dogs

Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) can also be described as a ruptured, slipped, bulging or herniated disk that can occur in your dog's neck or back. This condition is often seen in Dachshunds, Beagles, Pekingese, Shih Tzus, and Basset Hounds but may occur in dogs of any size or breed. 

Signs of IVDD in Dogs

The IVDD symptoms your dog shows will depend upon the location of the damaged disc but may include one or more of the following:

  • Head held low
  • Arched back
  • Shivering and crying out
  • Reluctance to move
  • Unsteadiness
  • Inability to walk or stand normally
  • Loss of feeling in some or all feet
  • Limp tail
  • Knuckling

Causes of IVDD in Dogs

Intervertebral Disc Disease is an age-related, gradual degenerative process that affects the spinal cord of the dog over a period of time, often undetected. 

IVDD occurs when the shock-absorbing discs between your dog's vertebrae gradually begin to harden until they are unable to cushion the vertebrae properly. The hardened discs will typically go on to bulge and compress the spinal cord, often damaging the dog's nerve impulses such as those that control bladder and bowel control.

The rupturing process can happen over a period of weeks or in a moment. So a dog that appears healthy and happy one minute can suddenly present odd symptoms and signs of pain.

Can a dog recover from IVDD without surgery? 

If your dog has been diagnosed with IVDD but is still able to walk non-surgical treatments may be able to help your dog manage their IVDD symptoms. However, in most cases, surgery is required for your dog to make a full recovery. 

Non-surgical treatment for IVDD is also called conservative treatment or management. The goals of non-surgical treatment are to help relieve pain and discomfort, to get your dog standing and walking again, and to help restore lost bladder and bowel control. Non-Surgical treatments for IVDD in dogs include:

  • Strict Crate-Rest - If you are trying to relieve your dog's IVDD symptoms without surgery, strict rest is going to be essential and is going to require patience! Your dog will need to be strictly confined to a small room or crate for at least 4 weeks in order to give the dog's body sufficient time to try and mend the damage.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications - Non-surgical treatment of IVDD in dogs will likely include steroid and anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce pain and swelling. These medications are used in conjunction with restricted activity and crate-rest.
  • Dietary Care - If your dog is overweight, losing a few pounds could help alleviate the pressure on their spine. Your vet can recommend a diet that will help you accomplish this goal. 
  • Physical Rehabilitation (Physical Therapy) - A rehabilitation practitioner will assess your dog's current condition and recommend a treatment plan which will include a combination of at-home treatments and professional treatment. Rehab can work wonders for pets suffering from mild-moderate cases of IVDD, as well as those recovering from surgery.

IVDD Surgery for Dogs

Surgery is considered the best and in some cases the only, treatment for severe cases of IVDD in dogs. The goal of IVDD surgery is to remove the diseased intervertebral disk material in order to relieve the pressure on your dog's spinal cord, restore normal blood flow, and prevent disc problems in the future. In order to achieve this goal, there are a number of surgeries may be used to treat dogs with IVDD.

Which surgery is used to treat your dog's IVDD will largely depend upon the location of the diseased disc. Your vet will discuss with you the option they would recommend and provide you with all the necessary information, including recovery time and cost of the IVDD surgery. 

Success Rates For Dog IVDD Surgery

Surgery is typically very successful in the majority of cases. Outcomes are most successful in dogs that have not lost their ability to walk. In dogs that have had ongoing symptoms of IVDD atrophy of the spinal cord can occur and lead to less successful outcomes.

If IVDD surgery is not successful in returning your pet to normal mobility, a dog wheelchair can help your pup to enjoy a happy and active life while living with Intervertebral Disc Disease. Recovery from IVDD surgery requires 6 - 8 weeks of restricted activity combined with appropriate medications to help with pain management and swelling. Your vet may also recommend physical rehabilitation (physical therapy for dogs) to help your pet recover.

Should Euthanasia Be Considered

Many distraught pet parents ask us whether they should consider euthanasia for a dog with severe IVDD. If you're the pet parent of a dog that has been diagnosed with severe IVDD you are likely facing some very difficult questions regarding treatment for your beloved pet.

Your vet will be sure to explain the treatment options that are available, and the likely outcome for each. Caring for a dog that is recovering from IVDD can be time-consuming and costly whether you opt for surgical or non-surgical treatment.

Every pet is different and your dog's prognosis will depend on a number of factors including your dog's age, the severity of the spinal injury, where on the spine the injury is located, and the length of time between symptoms appearing and treatment. If you are considering euthanasia for your dog following an IVDD diagnosis, speak to your vet openly and honestly, they have been trained to help you make the best decision for you and your pet.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet. 

Has your dog suddenly lost their ability to walk or are they showing other signs of IVDD? Immediate veterinary care is required. Please contact us during our regular clinic hours or reach out to your nearest emergency veterinary clinic.