IVDD In Dogs - Dog Harness in Street Graffiti worn by Corgi - against yellow and gray background

IVDD in Dogs: Understanding, Preventing, and Managing Intervertebral Disc Disease

Posted by Wag Trendz on

Our beloved canine companions bring immense joy and happiness into our lives. However, they're not immune to health issues, and one condition that affects many dogs, especially certain breeds, is Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD). In this comprehensive guide, we will explore IVDD in dogs, including what it is, its impact on our furry friends, prevention strategies, and how to manage it if your dog is diagnosed. 

IVDD In Dogs - Dog Harness worn by French Bulldog

Meeko's IVDD Journey: A Tale of Resilience 

At Wag Trendz®, our connection with dogs goes beyond just being a dog brand and providing dog accessories; it's a journey filled with emotional experiences, especially when dealing with health challenges like Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD).

Take Meeko, one of our cherished French Bulldogs, who at just 1.5 years old faced IVDD. Her symptoms were alarming and sudden: out of nowhere, she began shivering in pain, lost function in her back legs, and became unable to walk, all occurring within hours. The rush to an emergency veterinary clinic and the subsequent neurologist consultation marked the beginning of a challenging yet ultimately triumphant journey.

As dog owners, we intimately understand the whirlwind of emotions that accompanies our beloved canine companions when they're not at their best. Dealing with IVDD evoked a range of feelings, from the daunting prospect of surgery or, even more heart-wrenching, the thought of losing Meeko, to the immense relief that washes over us as we witness her attempts to stand the next day. These emotions are intertwined with the challenging eight weeks of strict crate rest, collectively highlighting the unwavering resilience of our loyal canine friends and underscoring the profound impact of IVDD.

Unaware of the existence of IVDD, our journey became a valuable learning experience, prompting us to recognize the significance of educating our community about the signs and symptoms to watch for and the essential steps to take if they and their furry companions find themselves in a similar ordeal. 

IVDD In Dogs - Dog Harness and Leash Set - for IVDD worn by a Dachshund

Breeds at Risk 

Several breeds, including French Bulldogs, Dachshunds, Corgis, Beagles, Basset Hounds, and Shih Tzus, possess a genetic predisposition to IVDD due to their distinctive long spines and short legs. Nevertheless, it's essential to bear in mind that IVDD is not limited to these breeds alone. 

Statistical data reveals that the aforementioned breeds have a higher susceptibility to developing IVDD during their lifetime, with Dachshunds, in particular, facing an approximate 25% chance of experiencing this condition.

What is IVDD?

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a spinal condition that primarily affects the intervertebral discs, serving as cushioning or shock absorbers between the vertebrae in the spine. These discs are comprised of a sturdy outer layer and a soft inner core. IVDD occurs when the inner core of the disc protrudes or herniates into the spinal canal, exerting pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. 

In cases where a dog develops IVDD, these discs may sustain damage or degenerate over time, leading them to exert pressure on the spinal cord or nerves. This compression can give rise to a variety of neurological symptoms and can cause considerable discomfort for your dog. The severity of IVDD can range from mild discomfort to complete paralysis, ultimately resulting in a diminished quality of life if left untreated or, in severe instances, even leading to death if the dog develops Myelomalacia

IVDD In Dogs - Dog Harness - worn by a Pug

Prevention and Management of IVDD: Taking Proactive Steps 

Regrettably, there is no foolproof method to entirely prevent IVDD in your dog. While certain risk factors, such as breed genetics, remain beyond your control, there are several proactive measures you can adopt to diminish the likelihood of your dog developing this condition: 

  1. Know the Signs and Symptoms: Educate yourself about the signs and symptoms of IVDD, so you can recognize them early and seek prompt veterinarian care if necessary.

  2. Pet Insurance: If your dog belongs to a breed with a genetic predisposition for IVDD, it's advisable to secure an insurance policy in anticipation of potential expenses. The costs can escalate significantly if surgical intervention becomes necessary and you don't want to risk IVDD being considered a preexisting condition. Compare Best Pet Insurance Companies.

  3. Walk your Dog on a Harness: Always walk your dog on a harness, never a collar, and make sure the harness is properly adjusted and fitted to evenly distribute pressure throughout the chest, shoulders, and neck areas. Wag Trendz® brand took Meeko's journey into account when designing and constructing a harness specifically for dog breeds prone to IVDD or have unfortunately experienced IVDD. The Wag Trendz® harness has a no-pull no-choke design that is not only comfortable for your dog but safe and can protect them against injury or further injury.

  4. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce stress on the spine and neck.

  5. Vetridisc by Vetriscience: Vetridisc is a supplement designed to support the spinal health of dogs. It contains ingredients like chondroitin sulfate, which can help maintain the integrity of intervertebral discs.

  6. Glycoflex by Vetriscience: Glycoflex is another supplement that promotes joint and connective tissue health in dogs. This can be beneficial in preventing or managing conditions like IVDD.

  7. Reduce or Eliminate Jumping and Stairs: One of the most significant risk factors for IVDD is the stress placed on the spine when a dog jumps on or off furniture or climbs stairs. Minimize these activities as much as possible. Use ramps or small steps to aid your pup in getting on/off furniture more safely.

  8. Limit Aggressive Play: Rough play can also put strain on a dog's spine. Encourage gentler forms of play to protect your dog's neck and back. No tug-o-war or out-of-control zoomies if they include jumping on/off furniture.

IVDD In Dogs - Dog Harness worn by Frenchie Bulldog

Recognizing IVDD: Signs and Symptoms

IVDD remains a notable concern within the canine community, with thousands of cases being diagnosed each year. It is imperative for dog owners to grasp the nature of this condition, its underlying causes, and the ability to identify its signs and symptoms. 

Comprehending the signs and symptoms of IVDD is of paramount importance for early detection, prompt intervention, and the potential for a favorable prognosis. Whether you observe a gradual onset of symptoms over days or weeks or a sudden manifestation of any of the following in your dog, it is crucial to promptly reach out to your veterinarian: 

  1. Shivering or Trembling: Dogs with IVDD may shiver or tremble due to pain and discomfort. Your dog may all of a sudden hide under the furniture to "hide from the pain". They may appear stiff and unable to move.

  2. Limited or No Mobility: A sudden loss of mobility or difficulty moving, particularly in the hind legs, can be a sign of spinal issues.

  3. Pain in the Back or Neck: Dogs with IVDD often experience pain in the affected areas of the spine.

  4. Loss of Bladder and Bowel Control: In severe cases, dogs may lose control of their bladder and bowels due to spinal cord damage.

  5. Weakness or Loss of Mobility in Front and/or Hind Legs: Complete or partial loss of mobility in any leg is a concerning symptom and can indicate spinal cord compression. Dogs may even drag their fee or hind legs.

  6. Loss of Sensation in the Legs or Tail: Dogs may lose sensation in the affected areas, making it difficult for them to stand, walk or even feel pain.

IVDD In Dogs - Dog Harness worn by Dachshund

What to do if you suspect IVDD: 

Immediate Action Matters: Act Swiftly 

Contact your veterinarian immediately for evaluation. When dealing with IVDD, early intervention is crucial for the best outcomes. The neurologist stated that if IVDD onset is related to a trauma type injury, the best surgical outcomes are those cases that have been assessed and surgical intervention (if needed) is done in the first 24 to 48 hours after the injury took place. If your regular veterinarian suspects IVDD, consider a neurology consultation. Neurologists are specialists who can assess your dog's condition and recommend the most suitable treatment plan. Remember that time is of the essence when it comes to IVDD treatment. 

Here's what to do if you suspect IVDD:
  1. Immediately restrict or confine your dog to a confined space to eliminate any chance of jumping and walking. A kennel is great for initial confinement.

  2. Carry your pup up and down any stairs and limit walking your dog other than necessary.

  3. Walk your dog on a harness and leash when your dog needs to potty. This limits how much they can walk/run and reduces the risk of further injury. 

IVDD In Dogs - Dog Harness worn by Shih-Tzu

Expectations for the Veterinary Visit

During your visit, your pup will undergo a comprehensive physical and neurological examination, potentially accompanied by diagnostic tests like x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and more. These assessments aim to establish an accurate diagnosis and guide the formulation of an appropriate treatment plan

Your veterinarian will also assess the severity of your dog's condition and offer recommendations for your next course of action. 

There are three (3) types of IVDD in Dogs and five (5) stages of severity based on symptoms exhibited. To learn more about the types and stages, read here.

Treatment Options For IVDD

Following a comprehensive evaluation by your veterinarian or neurologist, along with the insights gained from diagnostic imaging, your doctor will engage in a detailed discussion of potential treatment options. These options span a spectrum, ranging from medication and strict crate rest to acupuncture and, in severe instances, surgical intervention. 

IVDD In Dogs - Dog Harness worn by French Bulldog in dog stroller

Diagnosed with IVDD: What do I do? 

First and foremost, IVDD doesn't need to be a death sentence for most dogs. If your dog is suspected of or diagnosed with IVDD, your vet may recommend seeing a specialist. Treatment ranges from rest and medication to surgery.  

Meeko's story is a testament to how early intervention and strict adherence to recovery protocols can lead to a full recovery. With that said, it's crucial to follow a comprehensive treatment plan from your veterinarian or neurological veterinarian to ensure their comfort and the best chance of recovery.

Here are some key steps you can take on their road to recovery: 

  1. Strict Crate Rest for 8 Weeks: Rest is a crucial component of IVDD healing and management. The neurologist was adamant about 8 full weeks of crate rest, and even though your dog may look like they are healed or feeling better, the disc in the vertebrae takes 8 full weeks to heal. Keep your dog in a crate to restrict their movement and provide a safe environment for healing. A human pack 'n play can be an excellent alternative for this purpose as it is open at the top, and your pup may not feel as alienated from the family during their recovery period.

  2. Vitamin Supplements: If you haven't already incorporated vitamin supplements into your dog's routine, you might want to consider a combination like Vetridisc and Glycoflex from Vetriscience, or a similar option. These supplements can assist in the healing process during recovery and contribute to the strengthening of intervertebral discs, as well as support your dog's joint and connective tissue health moving forward.

  3. No Stairs: Eliminate the use of stairs entirely during your dog's recovery period. This can help prevent further injury while discs are healing.

  4. Medication: Your veterinarian or neurologist may prescribe medications like Carprofen and Gabapentin to manage pain, anxiety and inflammation. From experience, ask about sedative medications that can help keep your dog calm during the recovery period, as excitement can worsen the condition, especially as they begin to recover and start thinking it's time to play.

  5. Taking Care of Business: Carry your dog to their designated potty area while they're securely attached to a harness and leash. This approach restricts how far they can wander and discourages any running. Be certain that the harness is well-adjusted and properly fitted to distribute pressure evenly across their chest, shoulders, and neck.

  6. Consider Acupuncture: There are many successful stories of dogs healing with medication intervention and strict crate rest combined with acupuncture treatment. Discuss this with your veterinarian if this would be an option for you and your pup.

  7. Consider a Dog Stroller: Once your dog starts feeling better, consider using a dog stroller for short outings. Ensure that your dog remains calm, stays confined to the stroller, and doesn't engage in any strenuous activities.

  8. Join IVDD Support Groups: Join support groups to learn about others' journeys with IVDD. It's a community of like-minded folks to lean on in a very difficult time. As members of the French Bulldog IVDD Facebook group, although difficult, we tried to focus on the positive and glean information that was helpful to our personal journey.

IVDD In Dogs - Dog Harness worn by French Bulldog - Street Graffiti

Conclusion:

Meeko's journey from a painful diagnosis to a joyful, active life is a beacon of hope. After eight (8) weeks of strict crate rest and careful monitoring, she made a complete recovery. Today, at six years old, she enjoys her life to the fullest. 

In summary, IVDD is a serious and challenging condition that can significantly impact both you and your furry friend's quality of life. By gaining an understanding of the risk factors, recognizing the signs, and exploring available treatment options, you can provide the best care for your beloved pet.

Keep in mind that increased awareness, early detection and intervention are crucial for a successful outcome if your dog is diagnosed with IVDD. It's essential for responsible pet parents to educate themselves about this condition and proactively take steps to safeguard their furry companions.

Remember that the love and dedication we demonstrate during their time of need can make all the difference. How will you ensure your dog's spinal health today? Do you have an IVDD story to share? Do you have other successful recommendations on how to manage or prevent IVDD? If so, please share in the comments below. 

XOXO, 

-the Wag Trendz® team-

 

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