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Protecting Your Pup: Understanding and Preventing IVDD in Dogs

IVDD in Dogs: Types, Symptoms, and Treatment OptionsDogs are one of the most beloved pets in the world, and owners need to be aware of different types of diseases that can affect their furry friends. One such disease that is commonly diagnosed in dogs is Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD).

This condition affects the spinal cord and can lead to severe health complications if not treated promptly. This article will provide a comprehensive overview of IVDD, its types, symptoms, and treatment options.

What is IVDD? Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a degenerative condition that affects the spine of canine species.

The spinal cord is made up of several intervertebral discs that provide cushioning and support to the spine. These discs can become damaged or shift positions due to aging, injury, or genetics, leading to IVDD.

This condition is particularly common in short-legged, long-backed breeds, such as Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, and Pekingese. Types of IVDD in Dogs:

There are two types of IVDD in dogs: Type I and Type II.

Type I IVDD is known as a sudden-onset condition, which means that it appears quickly, seemingly out of nowhere. Dogs with Type I IVDD can experience severe pain and discomfort, often associated with paralysis, and require immediate treatment.

This type of IVDD affects younger dogs and is prevalent in chondrodystrophic breeds such as Dachshunds, Beagles, and Corgis. Type II IVDD, on the other hand, is a chronic condition that develops over time.

This type of IVDD is more common in older dogs and can lead to a gradual loss of mobility and stiffness. Dogs with Type II IVDD may experience little to no discomfort at first, and symptoms can be mistaken for aging-related changes.

Symptoms of IVDD in Dogs:

The symptoms of IVDD in dogs can vary depending on the type and severity of the condition. For Type I IVDD, the symptoms can include sudden pain, difficulty standing or walking, limb paralysis, and an arched back.

Affected dogs may also show signs of dragging their hind legs or loss of bladder and bowel control. With Type II IVDD, the symptoms are more gradual, and dogs may display stiffness, falling or stumbling, lethargy, or difficulty moving their head or neck.

The progression of IVDD in dogs can be rapid, leading to life-altering consequences if not treated promptly. Treatment Options for IVDD in Dogs:

The treatment options for IVDD in dogs depend on the severity of the condition.

For Type I IVDD, surgery is often the best course of action to alleviate pain, correct mobility issues, and reduce the risk of paralysis. Surgery can cost a significant amount of money but is usually more successful when done at an earlier stage of the condition’s onset.

For Type II IVDD, the treatment focuses on pain management, encouragement of low-impact exercise, and physical therapy. Dogs with Type II IVDD may require medication to help manage the pain, and restricting activity levels is important to prevent further damage or injury.

Preventing IVDD in Dogs:

As with any disease, prevention is an essential aspect of maintaining a healthy, happy dog. To help prevent IVDD in dogs, it is essential to encourage good spinal health.

Maintaining a healthy weight, providing low-impact exercise, and avoiding prolonged physical activity such as jumping and running can reduce the risk of IVDD in dogs. Conclusion:

Intervertebral Disc Disease can be a debilitating condition in dogs that can lead to life-altering consequences if not treated promptly.

By being aware of the different types of IVDD, their symptoms, and treatment options, owners can help their furry friends to thrive. Early detection, prompt medical attention, and a commitment to good spinal health can all contribute to mitigating the effects of IVDD in dogs.

Causes of IVDD in Dogs:

IVDD is a progressive condition that results in degeneration of the intervertebral discs that cushion the spine’s vertebral bones. The spine is a complex structure that houses and protects the central nervous system, comprising the brain and spinal cord.

The spinal cord is responsible for transmitting signals between the brain and the rest of the body, facilitating movement, sensation, and other bodily functions. The intervertebral discs of the spine play a vital role in maintaining spinal health and functionality.

Underlying issues that cause the compression of or damage to these discs can lead to IVDD in dogs. One of the primary causes of IVDD in dogs is the compression of nerves that run through the spinal column.

The intervertebral discs provide cushioning between the vertebrae, allowing the spine to move flexibly and facilitating shock absorption. When a disc slips, herniates, or ruptures, it can cause the vertebrae to shift out of their normal alignment, compressing the nerves within.

This nerve compression can result in pain, loss of mobility, and even paralysis. Injury, trauma, and genetic predisposition are some of the most common causes of intervertebral disc disease in dogs.

Slipped or herniated discs can occur due to age-related degenerative changes or due to injury and trauma. When a dog experiences a spinal injury or trauma, the intervertebral discs can become herniated or ruptured, leading to IVDD.

High-impact activities, such as jumping or roughhousing, can exacerbate or trigger IVDD, especially in chondrodystrophic breeds. In some cases, IVDD can also be hereditary, with certain breeds showing a propensity to the condition due to their genetic makeup.

For example, chondrodystrophic breeds such as Dachshunds, Pekingeses, and Beagles show an increased incidence of Type I IVDD. Chondrodystrophy is a condition where abnormal cartilage development in the spine causes the vertebrae to become shorter and thicker, leading to disc compressions and disk herniations.

Risk Factors for Dogs Developing Intervertebral Disc Disease:

Several risk factors can increase a dog’s likelihood of developing IVDD, and owners should be aware of these when caring for their dogs. One of the most significant risk factors for IVDD is breed, with chondrodystrophic breeds having a higher risk of developing IVDD.

Other factors include being overweight, leading a sedentary lifestyle, previous history of spinal problems, and advanced age.

Overweight dogs are more likely to develop IVDD as the additional weight they carry puts extra strain on their joints and spine.

Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and exercise can help reduce the risk of IVDD in overweight dogs. Leading a sedentary lifestyle, i.e., lack of exercise, can also increase the risk of IVDD in dogs.

Exercise not only helps to maintain a healthy weight, but it also strengthens the muscles that support the spine, reducing the likelihood of disc damage. Conclusion:

IVDD is a progressive condition that can lead to severe health issues in dogs if not caught and treated early.

Understanding the causes of this condition, such as injury, trauma, and genetics, can help owners take steps to reduce their dogs’ risks. By being aware of the risk factors that influence the development of IVDD, such as breed, weight, and lifestyle, owners can help their furry friends live a long, healthy life.

Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and visiting a veterinarian regularly can also help catch any potential spinal issues at an early stage, allowing for more effective management of IVDD and other conditions. Symptoms of IVDD in Dogs:

Intervertebral Disc Disease is a progressive, often degenerative condition that affects the spinal cord of dogs.

Depending on the severity of the condition, IVDD can lead to a range of symptoms, including pain, abnormal walking, difficulty standing, and even paralysis. The symptoms of IVDD can be classified into five stages, each with its own set of characteristics, and owners should be aware of these when caring for dogs with this condition.

Stage 1: Mild pain and loss of spinal function with no evidence of neurological deficits. At this stage, dogs might experience mild pain when touched on or near the spine but exhibit minimal gait or mobility changes.

Stage 2: Pain, unsteady movement, and a reluctance to move

Dogs in stage two of IVDD experience a noticeable change in their gait and may limp or have abnormal walking patterns. They may also exhibit reluctance to move, and their movements may be stiff.

Stage 3: Partial paralysis

During the third stage, dogs experience partial paralysis, which typically causes them to drag one or both hind legs while walking. They may also experience muscle atrophy (shrinkage), and owners may notice their dog’s muscle tone is weaker than usual.

Stage 4: Full paralysis

At this stage, dogs lose the ability to move their hind legs entirely and may experience complete loss of sensation in the affected area. Stage 5: Paralysis with loss of urinary or fecal control

At this stage, dogs experience complete paralysis of the hindquarters and lose control of their bladder and bowels.

In addition to the above stages, other symptoms that may indicate the presence of IVDD include vocalization when touched on or around the spine, shaking, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Diagnosing IVDD in Dogs:

IVDD is a progressive condition, and it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible if any symptoms are detected.

Veterinarians typically diagnose IVDD through a combination of a physical exam, a neurologic exam, and imaging tests such as x-rays and CT scans. During the physical exam, the veterinarian will manipulate the dog’s spine to assess pain levels, range of motion, and to look for signs of swelling.

They may also perform a neurologic exam, which checks for signs of spinal cord compression by observing the dog’s gait and reflexes. Any abnormalities detected during the exam can help indicate the presence of IVDD.

An x-ray is a common diagnostic tool used to diagnose IVDD because it can show changes to the vertebrae that may indicate IVDD, such as calcification, narrowing of the spinal canal, or displacement of the vertebrae. A CT scan may be needed in cases where the dog’s condition is worsening, or to help guide medical or surgical treatment options.


IVDD is a progressive neurological condition that can lead to severe, life-altering health complications if not treated promptly. Being aware of the symptoms of IVDD, such as pain, abnormal walking patterns, and even paralysis, can help dog owners detect the condition quickly.

Seeking veterinary care as soon as symptoms manifest is crucial for effective IVDD treatment. Veterinary care teams may use physical and neurological exams and imaging tests such as x-rays and CT scans to provide an accurate diagnosis, allowing pet owners to pursue the best possible treatment outcomes.

IVDD Treatment for Dogs:

The treatment options for Intervertebral Disc Disease in dogs depend on the severity of the condition. Mild cases of IVDD can be managed or improved with anti-inflammatory medications, pain management strategies, and strict rest.

Anti-inflammatory medication can help reduce inflammation around the affected spinal disc, while pain management strategies help alleviate any discomfort experienced by the dog. In severe cases of IVDD, where the dog experiences paralysis or unrelenting pain, surgical intervention may be required.

Surgery aims to remove the affected disc material and reduce pressure on the spinal cord, improving the dog’s quality of life. Post-surgery, pain management and strict rest are still required to aid in the dog’s recovery.

Physical therapy is an essential part of the IVDD treatment, regardless of whether the dog has undergone surgery or not. Physical therapy can help reduce swelling, increase range of motion, and build strength in the surrounding muscles, supporting the spine.

The use of physical therapy can also help prevent future IVDD episodes in dogs. Regular weight management is also important in preventing further episodes of IVDD, primarily in dogs that are overweight, as excess weight places additional stress on the spine.

Caring for a Dog with IVDD:

Dogs recovering from IVDD require a restful environment, paying strict attention to their comfort and state of mind. In addition to pain management and physical therapy sessions, a controlled rest program and regular check-ins with a veterinary team are critical.

During the rest period after surgery or during times of active IVDD symptoms, it is essential to ensure that dogs are in an environment where they are comfortable and have limited access to activities that could exacerbate their condition. Pet owners can create a safe and comfortable area for their dog by providing a comfortable bed or mat in a quiet room away from any commotion.

If required, the use of a dog sling, which assist the dog’s mobility, or a wheelchair may also be considered.

Controlled exercise after rest is essential to progress a dog’s recovery from IVDD.

Walking and gentle exercises can provide many benefits, such as improving circulation, improving bowel function and enhancing muscle strength. Introducing controlled exercise slowly and in small steps will help prevent future injuries and episodes of IVDD in dogs.


Intervertebral Disc Disease is a progressive, degenerative condition that can cause significant discomfort and lead to life-altering health problems in dogs. IVDD treatment depends on the severity of the condition, with less severe cases being treated via rest, pain management, and physical therapy.

In severe cases of IVDD, where the dog experiences paralysis or pain, surgical intervention may be necessary. Regardless of treatment, providing a safe and comfortable environment, controlled exercise, and strict rest periods are essential to your dog’s recovery.

By following a planned treatment program with a veterinary team that includes post-surgical care, dog owners can help their dogs live a comfortable and healthy life. Preventing Intervertebral Disc Disease in Dogs:

Prevention is key in managing IVDD in dogs.

Although IVDD can occur due to genetic factors, prevention efforts can reduce the risk of the condition developing. Engaging in physical activity, maintaining a healthy body weight, and avoiding highly acrobatic activities are crucial in reducing a dog’s risk of developing IVDD.

Exercise is essential for maintaining a healthy weight and enhancing the dog’s muscle support system, preventing excessive stress on the spine. Adequate and regular exercise for dogs can aid in preventing IVDD by strengthening the muscles supporting the spine and mitigating obesity which increases IVDD risk factors.

However, pet owners should provide low-impact exercises such as walking, which reduces the risk of injury to the spine, as high-impact activities such as jumping or running make IVDD more likely to occur. Pet owners also need to recognize the importance of a healthy weight in dogs when it comes to preventing IVDD.

Being overweight can place excess stress on the spine, increasing the likelihood of IVDD. A balanced diet with adequate nutrients is important in maintaining and promoting healthy weight in dogs.

Fresh vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains should form part of the dog’s diet. As mentioned earlier, avoiding highly acrobatic activities is key in preventing IVDD in dogs.

Activities such as jumping from high heights or roughhousing should be avoided among dogs that are at high risk of developing IVDD. Activities like these can cause significant damage to the spine and lead to the development of IVDD.


Preventing IVDD is possible by maintaining a healthy weight, low-impact exercise, and avoiding highly acrobatic activities. Overall, dogs at high risk of developing IVDD, such as chondrodystrophic breeds, should pay extra attention to their spines, with regular veterinary check-ups and pet owner education on appropriate exercises and safe activities.

Dog owners should be aware of their weight and activities to prevent IVDD and actively take steps to promote their well-being. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and close monitoring can prevent IVDD in dogs and ensure they live a healthy life.

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a progressive condition that affects the

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