InterVertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) occurs most often in Dachshunds but can also be prevalent in Pekingese, Jack Russell Terriers and Maltese poodles. A survey completed by Dachshund guardians living in the UK  in 2015 showed the number of Dachshunds affected by this condition as high as 25%. In this breed there is a genetic predisposition. IVDD also occurs in large breed older dogs, specifically GSDs and Labradors Retrievers.

Tad suffered from a slipped disc and then underwent corrective surgery. Afterwards Tad was still unable to walk. With intensive physical and hydro therapy, Tad finally took his first steps 1 year later! This is his incredible journey…

Intervertebral Disc Disease in its most serious form presents as sudden onset paralysis of the hind legs with or without urinary incontinence. In other individuals there may only be changes to the dog’s behaviour such as a reluctance to jump on the bed or to climb stairs. Often there is a hunched pose and IVDD can be misinterpreted as a gastrointestinal upset.

The disease develops when the cushion (or disc) between the vertebrae degenerates. The function of the disc is primarily shock absorption but it also allows for movement of the spine in all directions without impingement on the spinal cord. In breeds predisposed to this condition, degeneration of the discs begins as early as 6 months of age and symptoms can manifest as young as 2 years. Because of the degeneration, the disc is incapable of cushioning the shock and it then herniates and puts pressure on the spinal cord. The result is pain as well as the other signs described earlier. The discs most often affected lie in the middle of the back (just behind the ribs) as this is the most mobile portion of the spine. Intervertebral Disc Disease can also occur in the neck and the symptoms may then include the front legs and obvious neck pain.

Early treatment of this condition will yield the best outcome. Veterinarians are trained to assess the extent of the pressure placed on the spinal cord and depending on this will advise a course of treatment. Intervertebral Disc Disease is most commonly treated with surgery. This is an expensive procedure but the success rate has increased in recent years as technique improves. In patients where surgery is not an option, conservative management in the form of pain medicine and cage rest is advised. In other instances the veterinarian may recommend euthanasia.

Animal Health and Hydro (AHAH) treats all aspects of this debilitating and heart breaking disease. We manage dogs that are still mobile but very sore using acupuncture, heat, massage and Laser therapy. Once the pain is under control an exercise program is devised which focuses on maintaining core strength and hopefully reducing the risk of recurrence. There is no research available at the moment which supports this assumption but in human medicine, people with low back pain (usually caused by a herniated disc) respond well to exercise aimed at maintaining core strength.

Animal Health and Hydro also plays a very large role in post-surgical patients. Many of these dogs are unable to walk properly following the injury to the spine. We are proficient in neurological rehabilitation which teaches the dogs to walk again. We use Pilates balls, the underwater treadmill and other therapeutic equipment.

In all manifestations of Intervertebral Disc Disease the single most important factor contributing to a successful outcome is cage rest! This needs to be applied for at least 6 weeks following injury or surgery. Our vets and therapists will offer emotional support and practical guidance through this phase of your companion’s recovery. Should you be faced with a difficult decision, please contact AHAH to discuss all options for your companion. This may even include a mobility cart.

Also read The Neurologic Patient. CLICK HERE