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Surgery for Dogs With Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

Surgery for Dogs With Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

Dogs with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) have several treatment options, but for many canine companions, surgery is the best choice for restoring mobility, reducing pain and preventing further disc problems. Our Stockton  team explains more about IVDD surgery for dogs.

Your Dog's Intervertebral Discs

The intervertebral disc is a gelatinous inner substance enveloped in a ring of fibrous tissue. Intervertebral discs provide flexibility to the spine and help to cushion the spine whenever your dog performs movements such as running or jumping.

IVDD in Dogs

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) can develop due to 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 yelping
  • 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 condition that causes the gradual degeneration affecting the spinal cord of the dog over a period of time. This often goes undetected until it is advanced or the animal starts showing 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 intense pain, possible nerve damage, or even paralysis.

Non-Surgical Treatment for Dogs With IVDD

If your dog has been diagnosed with IVDD but is still able to walk, non-surgical treatments may be able to help your dog recover. If, however, your dog has a severe case of IVDD and has lost their ability to walk, urgent emergency treatment is required.

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 - Your vet will carefully calculate the precise number of calories required by your pet in order to manage weight and help to prevent added pressure on their spine.
  • 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 (in some cases the only) treatment for severe cases of IVDD in dogs. The goal of the procedure is to remove the diseased intervertebral disk material in order to take pressure off of your dog's spinal cord, restore normal blood flow, and prevent disc problems in the future. In order to achieve this goal, a combination of surgeries may be used to treat dogs with IVDD.

The surgeries used to treat your dog's IVDD will largely depend upon the location of the diseased disc. There are a number of 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 depends 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

Surgery is typically very successful for most patients. Outcomes are most successful in dogs that had not lost their ability to walk before the surgery. 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 Humane 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 cherished 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. Your vet will carefully and compassionately explain your dog's likelihood of recovery so that you are able to make an informed treatment decision. 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.

If your dog is showing symptoms of IVDD, head straight to Bear Creek Veterinary Hospital for urgent care for your dog. Our vets are ready to provide quality care for your dog.

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New Patients Welcome

Bear Creek Veterinary Hospital is welcoming new patients! Our compassionate vets are experienced in caring for Stockton companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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