While surgery isn't always necessary for IVDD, it is often the best treatment option for dogs who have Intervertebral Disc Disease that affects their ability to walk. The goal of IVDD surgery is to restore mobility, relieve pain, and prevent further disc damage. Here are some more treatment options for IVDD in dogs from our Boulder County veterinarians.
What is an Intervertebral Disc?
The intervertebral disc is composed of a gelatinous inner substance surrounded by a fibrous tissue ring. Intervertebral discs provide flexibility to the spine and help to cushion the load on the spine when your dog performs movements such as running or jumping.
What is IVDD?
Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) is a term that refers to a ruptured, slipped, bulging or herniated disk that occurs in the neck or back of your dog. This condition is most frequently seen in beagles, dachshunds, Pekingese, Shih-Tzus, and basset hounds, but it can affect any size or breed of dog.
What causes IVDD in dogs?
Intervertebral Disc Disease is an age-related, gradual degenerative process that affects the spinal cord of the dog over a while, often undetected.
The shock-absorbing discs between your dog's vertebrae gradually harden until they can no longer cushion the vertebrae properly, resulting in IVDD. The hardened discs will usually bulge and compress the spinal cord, damaging nerve impulses that control bladder and bowel control in the dog. In other cases, a simple jump or a bad landing can cause one or more of the hardened discs to burst and press against the dog's spinal nerves, causing pain, nerve damage, or even paralysis.
Can a dog recover from IVDD without surgery?
Non-surgical treatments may be able to help your dog recover from IVDD if he or she has been diagnosed with the disease but is still able to walk. However, if your dog has a severe case of IVDD and has lost their ability to walk, they require immediate emergency treatment.
Conservative treatment or management for IVDD is another term for non-surgical treatment. Non-surgical treatment aims to relieve pain and discomfort, get your dog up and walking again, and help restore lost bladder and bowel control. Non-surgical IVDD treatments for dogs include:
- Strict Crate-Rest - If you want to relieve your dog's IVDD symptoms without surgery, strict rest will be necessary, as will patience! Your dog will need to be confined to a small room or crate for at least four weeks to give the dog's body enough time to try to repair the damage.
- Anti-Inflammatory Medications - Non-surgical IVDD treatment in dogs will most likely include steroid and anti-inflammatory medications to help with pain and swelling. These medications are used in conjunction with activity restrictions and crate rest.
- Dietary Care - Your vet will carefully calculate the precise number of calories required by your pet 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 that includes both at-home and professional care. Rehab can be extremely beneficial for pets suffering from mild to moderate IVDD, as well as those recovering from surgery.
Surgical Treatment of IVDD
Surgery is considered to be the best and in some cases the only, treatment option for dogs with severe IVDD. The objective of IVDD surgery is to remove diseased intervertebral disk material, relieve pressure on your dog's spinal cord, restore normal blood flow, and prevent future disc problems. To accomplish this, dogs with IVDD may be treated with a combination of surgeries.
Which surgeries are used to treat your dog's IVDD is largely determined by the disc's location. IVDD surgeries include hemilaminectomy, laminectomy, fenestration, and ventral slot. In some cases, particularly in large breed dogs, a vertebral stabilization (fusion) procedure may also be recommended. The cost of IVDD surgery varies according to a variety of factors, but you should budget between $1,500 and $4,000.
IVDD Surgery Success Rates
In the vast majority of cases, surgery is a huge success. Dogs who have not lost their ability to walk have the best results. Atrophy of the spinal cord can occur in dogs with ongoing IVDD symptoms, resulting in less successful outcomes.
A dog wheelchair can help your dog live a happy and active life while living with Intervertebral Disc Disease if IVDD surgery is not successful in restoring normal mobility. After IVDD surgery, they will need to rest for 6 to 8 weeks and take pain relievers and anti-inflammatories to help with pain and swelling. Physical rehabilitation (dog physical therapy) may be recommended by your veterinarian to aid in your pet's recovery.
Should I consider euthanasia for my dog with severe IVDD?
If you are the pet parent of a dog who has been diagnosed with severe IVDD, you are probably facing some difficult treatment decisions for your beloved pet. Your veterinarian will make certain that you understand the treatment options available to you, as well as the likely outcomes for each. Caring for a dog who is recovering from IVDD can be time-consuming and expensive, regardless of whether you choose surgical or non-surgical treatment.
Every pet is unique, and your dog's prognosis will be determined by a variety of factors, including your dog's age, the severity of the spinal injury, where the injury is located on the spine, and the length of time between symptoms and treatment. Your veterinarian will carefully and compassionately explain your dog's chances of recovery to you so that you can make an informed treatment decision. If you are thinking about euthanasia for your dog, talk to your vet openly and honestly. They have been trained to help you make the best decision for you and your pet.