Surgery isn't needed for every case of IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease) in dogs, but for this condition that affects a pup's ability to walk, surgery might just be the best option. In this blog, our Grand Prairie vets explain what IVDD is, how it affects dogs, and the treatment options that are available, including surgery.
What are Intervertebral Discs?
The intervertebral disc is a gelatinous inner substance that is circled by a ring of fibrous tissue. Intervertebral discs provide the spine with flexibility and helps cushion the spine's load whenever your dog is performing movements such as jumping or running.
What is IVDD?
Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) could also be called a slipped, ruptured, herniated, or bulging disc that could occur in your dog's back or neck. We often see this condition in beagles, dachshunds, Pekingese, Shih Tzus, and basset hounds but they can develop in dogs of any breed or size.
What can cause IVDD in dogs?
Intervertebral Disc Disease is an age-related, gradual degenerative process that affects the spinal cord of a dog over a period of time, and it often goes unnoticed.
IVDD develops when the shock-absorbing discs between your dog's vertebrae gradually start to harden until they can no longer cushion the vertebrae properly. Generally, the hardened discs go on to bulge and compress the spinal cord, which could damage the dog's nerve impulses such as those that control bowels and bladder. In some situations, a simple jump or poor landing could make the hardened discs burst and press into the nerves of a dog's spinal cord causing pain, possible nerve damage, or even paralysis.
Can dogs recover from IVDD without surgery?
If your pooch has been diagnosed with IVDD but can still walk there are non-surgical treatments available that might be able to help your dog recover from IVDD. However, if your pup has severe IVDD and is no longer able to walk, they will require urgent emergency treatment.
Non-surgical treatments for IVDD are called conservative management or treatment. The primary goals of non-surgical treatment are to help alleviate discomfort and pain, in order to get your dog standing and walking again, as well as to restore lost bowel and bladder 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 critical and will need lots of patience! Your dog will have to be strictly confined to a crate or small room for a minimum of 4 weeks so their body will have enough 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 your pup will need to help manage their weight and 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.
Treating IVDD with surgery
Surgery is considered the best and in some cases the only way to treat severe cases of IVDD in dogs. The goal of IVDD surgery is to remove the diseased intervertebral disk material in order to relieve the pressure on your dog's spinal cord, restore normal blood flow, and prevent disc problems in the future. To meet this goal a combination of surgeries might be conducted to treat dog's with IVDD.
The surgeries that will be used to treat your dog's IVDD will mostly depend on the location of the diseased disc. There are various different IVDD surgeries including hemilaminectomy, laminectomy, fenestration, and ventral slot. Sometimes, veterinarians will suggest vertebral stabilization (fusion), especially in large breed dogs. The cost of IVDD surgery will depend on a handful of elements, but you can expect to pay approximately $1,500 to $4,000 for your dog's IVDD surgery.
The success rates of IVDD surgery
In most cases, IVDD surgery is highly successful. The most successful outcomes are in dogs that have not lost their ability to walk. 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 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.
My dog has severe IVDD, should I consider euthanasia?
If you're the parent of a dog that has been diagnosed with severe IVDD you are likely facing some very difficult questions regarding treatment for your beloved companion. 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.