corgi showing long back and short legs

Detecting Early Signs of IVDD in Dogs

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a common spinal condition that affects many dogs, particularly those with long bodies and short legs, such as dachshunds and corgis. Early detection of IVDD is crucial for ensuring prompt treatment and can make a significant difference in the outcome for affected dogs. This article aims to provide an in-depth understanding of IVDD, highlight the importance of early detection, discuss the early signs to watch out for and explore the diagnostic procedures and treatment options available.

Understanding IVDD: An Overview

IVDD, also known as slipped or herniated disc, occurs when the soft cushioning discs between the vertebrae of the spine bulge, rupture, or protrude into the spinal cord space. This can cause compression or irritation of the nerves, leading to pain, mobility issues, and potential paralysis in severe cases.

When a dog is affected by IVDD, it can be a challenging time for both the pet and the owner. The condition requires careful management and treatment to alleviate symptoms and prevent further complications. Understanding the intricacies of IVDD is crucial in providing the best care for your furry companion.

What Is IVDD?

IVDD is a degenerative condition that primarily affects the spinal discs of dogs. These discs serve as cushions, absorbing shock and allowing flexibility and movement in the spine. When these discs become damaged or weakened, it can result in various degrees of spinal cord dysfunction.

It's important to note that IVDD can manifest differently in each dog, with symptoms ranging from mild discomfort to severe neurological deficits. Early detection and intervention play a significant role in improving the prognosis and quality of life for dogs with IVDD.

Causes and Risk Factors of IVDD

The exact causes of IVDD are not fully understood, but several risk factors have been identified:

  • genetic predisposition
  • obesity
  • age (middle-aged to older dogs)
  • excessive jumping or rough play

While these risk factors can contribute to the development of IVDD, it's essential to approach each case individually and tailor treatment plans to meet the specific needs of the affected dog. Collaborating with a veterinary professional is key in navigating the complexities of IVDD and ensuring the best possible outcome for your pet.

The Importance of Early Detection

Early detection of Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) in dogs is a critical factor in effectively managing the condition and increasing the likelihood of positive outcomes. IVDD is a common spinal problem in certain breeds, where the discs between the vertebrae degenerate and can cause pain, nerve damage, and in severe cases, paralysis.

When a dog shows signs of IVDD, such as reluctance to move, hunched back, or crying out in pain, it's essential to seek veterinary attention promptly. Early diagnosis through physical exams, neurological assessments, and imaging tests like X-rays or MRIs can help in determining the extent of the condition and planning appropriate treatment.

Progression of IVDD Without Early Detection

If IVDD is left untreated or not detected early, the condition can progress rapidly, leading to worsening symptoms and potential complications. As the intervertebral discs continue to degenerate, they can bulge or herniate, putting pressure on the spinal cord. This compression can result in nerve damage and, in severe cases, partial or complete paralysis of the affected limbs. Dogs experiencing advanced stages of IVDD may lose control of their bladder and bowels, further impacting their quality of life.

Benefits of Identifying IVDD Early

Early detection of IVDD offers numerous benefits for affected dogs and their owners. Timely intervention, such as medication, physical therapy, or even surgery, can help alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and prevent further damage to the spinal cord. By identifying IVDD early, pet owners can work closely with veterinarians to develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to their dog's specific needs. This proactive approach not only improves the overall prognosis but also ensures that the best possible care is provided promptly to enhance the dog's quality of life.

Recognizing the Early Signs of Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a condition that can affect dogs, particularly those with long backs like basset hounds and French bulldogs. It occurs when the cushioning discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column bulge or burst into the spinal cord space. Recognizing the early signs of IVDD is crucial for prompt intervention and treatment.

Physical Symptoms to Look Out For

While the signs of IVDD may vary depending on the severity and location of the affected disc, some common physical symptoms to watch out for include:

  • reluctance or difficulty in jumping or climbing stairs
  • stiffness or limping
  • weakness or paralysis in the hind limbs
  • pain or sensitivity when touched or lifted

It's important to note that these physical symptoms can worsen rapidly, so immediate veterinary attention is recommended upon observing any of these signs in your furry companion.

Changes in Behavior and Mood

In addition to physical symptoms, IVDD can also manifest through changes in a dog's behavior and mood. These may include

  • increased irritability or aggression
  • loss of appetite
  • withdrawal from social interaction
  • excessive vocalization

Behavioral changes such as these can be indicative of the discomfort and pain that a dog may be experiencing due to IVDD. Understanding both the physical and behavioral signs of IVDD is essential for providing the best care and support for your beloved pet.

Diagnostic Procedures for IVDD

Veterinary Examinations

A thorough physical examination by a veterinarian is essential for diagnosing IVDD. The vet will assess the dog's mobility and reflexes, and perform a neurological examination to identify any abnormalities. Additionally, imaging tests such as X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be recommended to confirm the diagnosis and determine the extent of the spinal cord damage.

During the physical examination, the veterinarian will carefully palpate the dog's spine to check for signs of pain, weakness, or loss of sensation. They may also observe the dog's gait and look for any signs of lameness or abnormal movements. By combining these observations with the results of neurological tests, the vet can create a comprehensive picture of the dog's condition.

Advanced Diagnostic Techniques

In more complex cases, veterinary specialists may employ advanced diagnostic techniques such as myelography or computed tomography (CT) scans. These tests provide detailed images of the spinal cord and can help guide treatment decisions.

Myelography involves injecting a contrast dye into the spinal canal to highlight any abnormalities or compression of the spinal cord. This procedure allows for a more precise evaluation of the spinal cord and surrounding structures, aiding in the identification of the exact location and severity of the IVDD. Computed tomography (CT) scans use X-rays to create detailed cross-sectional images of the spine, providing valuable information for surgical planning and determining the best course of treatment for the affected dog.


dachshund on a leash with harness

Treatment Options for Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

Non-Surgical Treatments

In mild or early-stage cases of IVDD, non-surgical treatments may be sufficient. These may include

  • rest and restricted activity
  • anti-inflammatory medications
  • physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises
  • pain management strategies

Rest and restricted activity are crucial in allowing the affected disc to heal and preventing further damage. Anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce swelling and alleviate pain, improving the dog's comfort levels. Physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises are designed to strengthen the muscles supporting the spine, promoting mobility and flexibility. Pain management strategies, such as acupuncture or laser therapy, can also be effective in managing discomfort.

Surgical Interventions

For severe or progressive cases of IVDD, surgical intervention may be necessary. The specific surgical procedure will depend on the location and severity of the disc damage, but common techniques include

  • hemilaminectomy
  • ventral slot procedure
  • disc fenestration

Hemilaminectomy involves removing a portion of the vertebral bone to access and decompress the affected disc. Ventral slot procedure is performed on the neck region and involves creating a window in the vertebrae to remove the damaged disc material. Disc fenestration is a minimally invasive procedure where a small hole is made in the disc to release pressure and reduce inflammation.

Final Thoughts

Pet owners need to be vigilant for any signs of IVDD in their dogs, such as reluctance to jump, neck or back pain, or hind limb weakness. Early detection and intervention can significantly improve the prognosis and quality of life for affected dogs. By working closely with a veterinarian to develop a comprehensive treatment plan, and including both non-surgical and surgical options when necessary, pet owners can provide the best care for their furry companions.