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Surgery for IVDD in Dogs

IVDD is a degenerative disease that can harm your dog's spinal cord and causes a variety of painful mobility issues. Today our Vancouver vets explain more the causes and treatments with and without surgery for IVDD in dogs.

IVDD (Intervertebral Disk Disease)

Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) in dogs is a painful condition that can also be described as a ruptured, slipped, bulging or herniated disk. This condition is most commonly seen in breeds with longer spines such as beagles, dachshunds, Pekingese, Shih Tzus, basset hounds, or American cocker spaniels but can occur in dogs of any breed.

Causes of IVDD in Dogs

IVDD is an age-related, gradual degenerative process that affects the spinal cord of the dog over a period of time, often undetected. Even with yearly wellness exams, your vet may not detect any signs of IVDD until your dog's hardened disc or discs become ruptured and painful symptoms become apparent. If your dog has IVDD something as simple as an everyday jump up onto the sofa could damage a disc that has been weakened by the condition and trigger acute and painful symptoms.

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. In other cases, a simple jump or poor landing can lead one or more of the hardened discs to burst and press into the nerves of the dog's spinal cord causing pain, possible nerve damage or even paralysis.

Symptoms of IVDD in Dogs

IVDD can develop in any of the discs in your dog's spine and symptoms of this condition will depend upon which part of the spine is affected, and how severe the damage is. Symptoms of IVDD can appear over long periods of time, but are just as likely to appear instantly. If your dog is displaying any of the following symptoms, seek veterinary care immediately. IVDD can be very painful for dogs and early treatment is critical for preventing the condition from becoming more severe or causing irreversible damage to your dog's spine.

Symptoms will vary depending on what type of IVDD your dog has. Signs can include:

  • Holding the neck low
  • Unable to fully lifted the head
  • Neck or back pain
  • Weak, uncoordinated movement within four limbs or hind limbs
  • Limping on one or both front limbs
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Panting or shivering
  • Paralysis in four limbs or difficulty breathing (severe cases that are surgical emergencies)
  • Hunched back or stiff appearance
  • Paralysis

The most severe cases are particularly difficult for owners to watch as they can involve lost bladder function, inability to feel painful sensations and/or paralysis.

Diagnosing Dogs with IVDD

Immediate veterinary care is required if your dog begins showing any of the above symptoms. Tests for diagnosing IVDD in dogs typically include standard x-rays, a neurological exam, and/or MRI to help locate the disc or discs causing your dog's symptoms.

Treatment for IVDD in Dogs

Treatment for IVDD needs to begin as early as possible in order to achieve the best possible treatment outcomes. That's why we recommend taking your dog to the vet for a full examination if you spot signs of IVDD in your dog. Delays in treatment could lead to irreversible damage.

Surgery to Treat Dogs with IVDD

Surgery is typically recommended for dogs suffering from more severe cases of IVDD. Rest and medication are not always enough to treat more intense cases and cannot help reduce pain and other symptoms effectively. During surgery, your dog's veterinary surgeon will remove the hardened disc material that is putting pressure on your dog's spinal cord and causing the IVDD symptoms.

Surgery outcomes are most successful in dogs that have not yet lost their ability to walk and are more mobile. Recovery from IVDD surgery requires 6 - 8 weeks of restricted activity. Running, climbing stairs, playing with other dogs, or jumping on furniture need to be prevented in order to avoid further damage as your dog's spine heals.

If your dog's surgery is not successful and your dog can't return to their normal state of mobility, a doggy wheelchair can help your canine companion enjoy a happy and active life while living with IVDD.

The cost of IVDD surgery varies greatly depending on a number of factors including where you live, but you can expect to pay somewhere around $1,500 to $4500. Your vet will be able to provide you with a more accurate estimate and breakdown of costs.

Physical Rehabilitation for Dogs

Following surgery, your veterinarian may also recommend physical rehabilitation (physical therapy) for your dog in order to work on muscle strengthening and to help get your pet moving comfortably again.

Anti-Inflammatory Medications For IVDD in Dogs

It is common for dog owners to inquire whether their dog can recover from IVDD without surgery. If your dog is diagnosed early enough with a mild to moderate IVDD, your vet may try treatment with steroid and anti-inflammatory medications (to help reduce pain and swelling), combined with strict crate rest for approximately 4 - 8 weeks.

Treating this IVDD without surgery is a lengthy process that requires a lot of patience . You can expect multiple steps involving different treatments that will require strict instructions from your vet.

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.

If your pet has been diagnosed with IVDD and requires surgery or advanced care, speak to your primary care vet about a referral to our Board Certified Veterinary Specialists at Columbia River Veterinary Specialists. Contact us for more information.

We Welcome New Patients

Columbia River Veterinary Specialists is accepting new patients by referral and for emergency services. Our experienced emergency vets  and specialists are passionate about the health of Vancouver companion animals. Ask your vet today about a referral.

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