Intervertebral Disc Disease

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a common cause of spinal pain and difficulty walking in dogs.  Two types of disc disease exist – type I and type II.

In type I IVDD, the intervertebral disc degenerates and suddenly herniates upward into the spinal cord, resulting in pain and often in weakness or even paralysis.  Most cases of IVDD occur in the mid-back, resulting in back pain and decreased function to the back legs.  The Dachshund is the most commonly affected breed, with 1 out of 5 dachshunds developing signs of IVDD in their lifetime.  While small breed dogs are more commonly affected by type I IVDD, large breeds such as German Shepherds, Labs, and Dobermans are also at risk.

While dogs with IVDD can become unable to walk or even paralyzed, the outlook can be very good as long as treatment is initiated immediately.  For those dogs who are unable to walk, surgery is recommended to remove the disc material pressing on the spinal cord and restore function to the affected nerves.  If surgery is performed before a dog loses feeling to their toes (“deep pain”), there is a 90-95% chance that they will regain the ability to walk.  For the most severely affected dogs, in whom deep pain is lost, timely surgery is still able to restore function in 50% of patients.  If surgery is delayed for over 48 hours after deep pain is lost, however, the success rate with surgery falls to 5%.  For this reason, our neurologist, Dr. Jones, will perform diagnostics and surgery overnight or on weekends if deemed in the best interest of your pet.

For dogs who are less severely affected, or in cases in which surgery is not an option, Dr. Jones, will discuss non-surgical options and will counsel owners on what actions to take at home to give their pet the best opportunity for recovery.

In Type II IVDD, the progression of signs is often more prolonged, as the underlying cause is a gradual bulge of the intervertebral disc into the spinal canal rather than a sudden extrusion.  In contrary to type I IVDD, large breed dogs are most commonly affected by type II disease.  Treatment of type II IVDD is similar to type I; however, the outcome of surgery is less predictable.
If you or your veterinarian is concerned that your pet may have IVDD, please schedule a consultation with our Neurologist by calling us at our Manchester or Newington location today.