Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a very serious and painful condition affecting your dog's spine. If your dog has been diagnosed with IVDD, surgery is often the best treatment for relieving pain and restoring mobility. Today, our Tigard vets explain why.
The Intervertebral Disc
In between the bones of the spine are intervertebral discs. They are made of cartilage and surrounded by a ring of harder, fibrous tissue. They act as cushions to the bones in the spine, helping absorb the impact caused by running and jumping.
Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD)
There are two types of intervertebral disc disease (IVDD):
The first type of IVDD can be referred to as a "slipped disc." It occurs when the middle, gelatinous, part of the disc becomes calcified and then ruptures through the outer part of the disc. Although the calcification of the cartilage can happen slowly over time, the rupture itself is acute and generally occurs as a result of forceful impact (jumping, landing, etc.). Type 1 IVDD generally occurs in small-breed dogs but can occur in some large-breed dogs such as Labrador retrievers, German Shepherds, dalmatians, Rottweilers, and pit bulls. This type of disc herniation occurs most commonly in young- to middle-aged dogs.
The second type of IVDD typically affects middle-to-older aged large-breed dogs. It is caused by chronic bulging of the outer part of the disc on the spinal cord. The condition is typically slowly progressive and may or may not be painful. The chronic spinal cord compression associated with this type of disc disease often causes atrophy of the spinal cord.
While a disc can bulge or herniate anywhere along the spinal column, 65% of accounted disc ruptures occur in the thoracolumbar (mid-back) area, while 18% occur in the cervical (neck) region.
Symptoms of IVDD in Dogs
Common symptoms of IVDD include:
- Pain in the neck or back region
- Unable to fully lift head
- Unwilling or unable to walk
- Loss of bladder and bowel
- Difficulty breathing
- Shaking or trembling (a sign of pet being in pain)
- Knuckling on paws
Treatment for IVDD in Dogs
Non-surgical treatment for IVDD
If the disease is in its early stages and the neurological symptoms are mild, your veterinarian may recommend conservative treatment in the form of pain medication, crate rest, weight management, or physical therapy. Many of these patients may require surgery down the road.
Non-surgical treatment for IVDD (also called conservative treatment or IVDD management) aims at relieving your pup's pain and discomfort, getting your pet standing and walking again, and restoring lost bladder and bowel control. Non-Surgical treatments for IVDD in dogs include strict crate-rest, anti-inflammatory medications, dietary care (managing your dog's weight to relieve pressure on their back), and physical rehabilitation (physical therapy for dogs).
Surgery for Dogs with IVDD
In severe cases, when the dog has lost its ability to walk, the best and only treatment may be surgery. The goal of IVDD surgery is to remove the diseased intervertebral disk material in order to relieve the pressure on the dog's spinal cord. Relieving the pressure on your pet's spinal cord can help to restore normal blood flow, and prevent further disc problems in the future.
There are a number of different surgeries which may be used alone or together to treat dogs with IVDD. The surgery recommended for your pup will largely depend upon the location of the diseased disc. IVDD surgeries include hemilaminectomy, laminectomy, fenestration, and ventral slot. For some dogs, a vertebral stabilization (fusion) procedure may also be recommended, especially in larger breeds.
IVDD Surgery Cost
IVDD surgery costs range from around $3000-$8000, including the necessary appointments and testing required prior to surgery. Owners will need to continue physical therapy and exercise restrictions for a specified amount of time after the pet is discharged from the hospital.
IVDD Surgery Success Rates
The prognosis of IVDD can vary depending on how significant the condition is when it is diagnosed and treated. IVDD surgery success rates are around 90% when a dog is in the early stages of the disease. In dogs who have severe or progressed IVDD, the success rate of surgery in restoring leg function is about 50-60% if surgery occurs within 24 hours of the acute disc herniation. The success rate drops significantly lower if more than 24 hours have progressed since the ruptured disc.