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What is IVDD Surgery in Dogs?

Although surgery is not the only treatment option for dogs with IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease), it is often the best option for many. The goal of IVDD surgery is to restore mobility, relieve pain, and prevent further disc damage. Our Tigard veterinarians go over IVDD Surgery in dogs in more detail.

Your Dog's Intervertebral Discs

The intervertebral disc is made up of a gelatinous center surrounded by a fibrous ring. When your dog performs movements such as running or jumping, intervertebral discs provide flexibility and help to cushion the load on the spine.

IVDD in Dogs

Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) is characterized by a ruptured, slipped, bulging, or herniated disk in the neck or back of your dog. Dachshunds, Beagles, Pekingese, Shih Tzus, and Basset Hounds are commonly affected, but they can affect 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 some time, often undetected. 

The shock-absorbing discs between your dog's vertebrae gradually harden until they can no longer cushion the vertebrae properly, resulting in IVDD. The hardened discs will usually bulge and compress the spinal cord, damaging nerve impulses that control bladder and bowel control in the dog. In other cases, a simple jump or a bad landing can cause one or more of the hardened discs to burst and press against the dog's spinal nerves, causing pain, nerve damage, or even paralysis.

Can a Dog Recover From IVDD Without Surgery?

Non-surgical treatments may be able to help your dog recover from IVDD if he has been diagnosed with it but is still able to walk. However, if your dog has a severe case of IVDD and is unable to walk, emergency treatment is required immediately.

The term "conservative treatment" or "management" refers to non-surgical IVDD treatment. Nonsurgical treatment aims to alleviate pain and discomfort, get your dog up and walking again, and regain bladder and bowel control. The following are non-surgical IVDD treatments for dogs:

  • Strict Crate-Rest - If you want to relieve your dog's IVDD symptoms without surgery, strict rest will be necessary, and patience will be required! Your dog will need to be confined to a small room or crate for at least 4 weeks to allow his body to try to repair the damage.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications - Steroid and anti-inflammatory medications will most likely be used in the non-surgical treatment of IVDD in dogs to help reduce pain and swelling. These medications are used in conjunction with crate rest and restricted activity.
  • Dietary Care - Your vet will carefully calculate the precise number of calories required by your pet to manage weight and help to prevent added pressure on their spine.
  • Physical Rehabilitation (Physical Therapy) - A rehabilitation specialist will evaluate your dog's current state and recommend a treatment plan that includes a combination of at-home and professional treatments. For pets with mild-moderate cases of IVDD, as well as those recovering from surgery, rehab can be extremely beneficial.

IVDD Surgery for Dogs

For severe cases of IVDD in dogs, surgery is considered the best, and in some cases the only, treatment option. The goal of IVDD surgery is to remove the diseased intervertebral disk material from your dog's spine to relieve pressure on the spinal cord, restore normal blood flow, and prevent future disc problems. A combination of surgeries may be used to treat dogs with IVDD to achieve this goal.

Which surgeries are used to treat your dog's IVDD will largely depend upon the location of the diseased disc. There are several different IVDD surgeries including hemilaminectomy, laminectomy, fenestration, and ventral slot. In some cases, a vertebral stabilization (fusion) procedure may also be recommended, especially in large breed dogs. How much IVDD surgery costs depend on many factors including your dog's overall health, age, and weight, as well as where on your dog the injury is and where in the country you live. The only way to get an accurate estimate regarding the cost of IVDD surgery for your dog is to speak to your veterinary professional.

Success Rates For Dog IVDD Surgery

In the vast majority of cases, surgery is a huge success. Dogs who have not lost their ability to walk have the best results. Atrophy of the spinal cord can occur in dogs with ongoing IVDD symptoms, resulting in less successful outcomes.

A dog wheelchair can help your dog live a happy and active life while living with Intervertebral Disc Disease if IVDD surgery is not successful in restoring normal mobility. After IVDD surgery, you'll need to rest for 6 to 8 weeks and take pain relievers and anti-inflammatories to help with pain and swelling. Physical rehabilitation (dog physical therapy) may be recommended by your veterinarian to aid in your pet's recovery.

Should Euthanasia Be Considered

Many bereaved pet parents ask us if euthanasia for a dog with severe IVDD is an option. If you're the pet parent of a dog who has been diagnosed with severe IVDD, you're probably asking yourself some tough questions about how to treat your beloved pet. Your veterinarian will go over all of the treatment options with you, as well as the likely outcomes for each. Whether you choose surgical or non-surgical treatment, caring for a dog who is recovering from IVDD can be time-consuming and costly.

Every pet is unique, and your dog's prognosis will be determined by a variety of factors, including his age, the severity of the spinal injury, the location of the injury on the spine, and the time between the onset of symptoms and treatment. Your veterinarian will explain your dog's chances of recovery in detail and compassionately so that you can make an informed treatment decision. If you're thinking about euthanasia for your dog after an IVDD diagnosis, talk to your vet about it. They're trained to help you make the best decision for you and your pet.

Veterinary Surgery at Cascade Veterinary Referral Center

We provide comprehensive surgical options for the treatment of a wide range of soft tissue and orthopedic disorders at Cascade Veterinary Referral Center in Tigard. Our surgical specialist will perform a thorough examination and discuss recommended diagnostic tests, procedures, risks, and expected outcomes with you based on your pet's problems.

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. 

Is your dog showing signs of IVDD? Contact Cascade Veterinary Referral Center to book an appointment with our veterinary surgeon to assess the problem.

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Cascade Veterinary Referral Center is accepting new patients! Get in touch with us today for information on how to book a specialty appointment for your pet. 

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