What You Need to Know About Canine Disk Disease

Also known as intervertebral disk disease or IVDD, canine disc disease is a serious spinal condition that can lead to permanent paralysis if you don’t seek proper treatment. This disease can develop at any time, though certain breeds have a genetic predisposition and it seems to affect females more often than males. If your dog belongs to one of these breeds you should take the time to learn everything you can about this condition, just in case.

What is Canine Disk Disease?

Canine disk disease is a condition in which the disks between the vertebrae in your dog’s spine bulge or burst into the spinal cord. These disks are supposed to help cushion the spine but when they bulge or herniate (burst) they can start pressing on the nerves that run along your dog’s spine – this can be painful for your dog and it can also lead to nerve damage or paralysis. This condition can affect any breed, though certain breeds like the Beagle, Basset Hound, Dachshund, French Bulldog, Pekingese, and Shih Tzu have a genetic predisposition.

Related: What Is Patellar Luxation In Dogs?

In small dogs, canine disk disease is often the result of abnormal development of the cartilage in the dog’s spine which can result in sudden disk ruptures. In larger dogs, the condition is more likely to progress slowly, causing a slow worsening of symptoms. Symptoms of canine disc disease include pain or weakness in the rear limbs, unwillingness to jump, anxious behavior, muscle spasms, hunched back or tensed muscles, reduced activity level, and loss of bladder or bowel control. In order to diagnose your dog with IVDD, your vet will need to perform x-rays and he may recommend a myelogram as well.

Treatment and Recovery for Canine Disk Disease

The treatment options for canine disk disease vary depending on the progression of the disease and its severity. In very minor cases, steroidal or anti-inflammatory medications may be sufficient to reduce swelling in the spinal cord – analgesics may also be prescribed to manage the pain. With medical treatment for this condition the dog must also have his mobility limited with confinement to the crate for up to 6 weeks to prevent further damage during recovery. In many of these cases the dog is able to return to normal activity.

Related: What Is Hip Dysplasia In Dogs?

In cases where spinal nerve damage has occurred, or if the dog has become incontinent or paralyzed, a more aggressive course of treatment may be required. Emergency surgery may be needed to open up the spinal space to relieve pressure – this can be done by removing a portion of the vertebra over the opening in a procedure called a laminectomy. Unfortunately, some dogs that undergo this type of treatment fail to recover fully anyway. It is also possible for the dog to recover fully but to experience subsequent bouts of the disease later in life. Physical therapy and rehabilitation is very important for all dogs that are recovering from IVDD to help them regain strength and mobility. In some cases, dogs will need special accommodations like a cart to help them get around.

Though you may not be able to prevent canine disk disease from happening if your dog has a genetic predisposition, there are things you can do to lower his risk. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight will go a long way in preventing this disease and you should walk him with a harness instead of just a collar to avoid putting too much pressure on his neck. If your dog does develop IVDD you should definitely avoid breeding.

kate-Bio_PicKate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor’s degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.


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