Surgery isn't always required for IVDD, but for dogs suffering from Intervertebral Disc Disease which affects their ability to walk, surgery is can be the best treatment option. Today our Mooresville vets explain more about surgery and other treatment options for dogs with IVDD.
The Intervertebral Disc
The intervertebral disc is a fibrous ring of tissue containing a jelly-like inner substance. These discs give the spine flexibility and help to cushion the load to the spine whenever your dog is actively moving around, running or jumping.
Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD)
IVDD is an age-related, gradual degenerative process that affects the spinal cord of the dog over a period of time, often undetected. This condition is otherwise described as a ruptured, slipped, bulging or herniated disk and may occur anywhere in your dog's back or neck.
Dogs of any breed can suffer from IVDD however, it is most often seen in beagles, dachshunds, pekingese, shih tzus, and basset hounds.
Causes IVDD in Dogs
As IVDD progresses, the shock-absorbing discs between your dog's vertebrae gradually begin to harden until they are unable to cushion the vertebrae properly. After awhile the hardened discs may go on to bulge and compress the spinal cord.
Often, a simple jump or poor landing can lead one or more of the hardened discs to burst and press into the nerves of the dog's spinal cord causing pain, possible nerve damage or even paralysis.
Can a dog recover from IVDD without surgery?
If your dog has been diagnosed with IVDD but is still able to walk non-surgical treatments may be able to help your dog recover from IVDD. Dogs who have lost their ability to walk require emergency treatment which will likely include surgery.
Non-surgical treatments for IVDD aim to help relieve pain, get your dog walking again, and help restore lost bladder and bowel control (which can be caused by nerve damage associated with IVDD). Non-Surgical treatments for IVDD in dogs include:
- Strict Crate-Rest - Your dog will need to be strictly confined to a small room or crate for at least 4 weeks in order to give the dog's body sufficient time to try and mend the damage.
- Anti-Inflammatory Medications - Anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce pain and swelling. These meds are used in conjunction with restricted activity and crate-rest.
- Dietary Care - Your vet will carefully calculate the precise number of calories required by your pet in order to manage weight and help to prevent added pressure on your dog's injured spine.
- Physical Rehabilitation (Physical Therapy) - Rehab can work wonders for pets suffering from mild-moderate cases of IVDD, as well as those recovering from surgery. Your vet can recommend a qualified rehabilitation practitioner to help your dog recover from IVDD.
Surgery for IVDD
Surgery may help to restore your dog's ability to walk, reduce pain and prevent further disc problems. IVDD surgery is considered the best (and sometimes the only) treatment for dogs suffering from severe IVDD.
The goal of IVDD surgery to remove the diseased intervertebral disk material in order to relieve the pressure on your dog's spinal cord, restore normal blood flow, and prevent disc problems in the future.
There are a number of different IVDD surgeries including hemilaminectomy, laminectomy, fenestration, and ventral slot. Which surgery will be used to treat your dog will largely depend upon the location of the diseased disc. For some dogs a vertebral stabilization (fusion) procedure may be recommended. This is usually the case in large breed dogs.
How much IVDD surgery costs will depend upon a number of factors but is generally in the region of $1,500 to $4,000.
Success Rates for IVDD Surgery
Surgery is typically very successful. Outcomes are most successful in dogs that have not lost their ability to walk.
If IVDD surgery is not successful in returning your dog's ability to move normally, a dog wheelchair can help your pup to enjoy a happy and active life even while living with IVDD.
Recovery from IVDD surgery requires 6 - 8 weeks of restricted activity combined with medications to help manage pain and swelling. In many cases, physical rehabilitation is recommended to help dogs recovering from IVDD rebuild strength and stability.
Should I consider euthanasia for my dog with severe IVDD?
If your dog has been diagnosed with severe IVDD you are likely facing some very difficult questions regarding treatment for your beloved pet. Your vet will be sure to explain the appropriate treatment options, and the likely outcome for each. Sadly, caring for a dog that is recovering from IVDD can be both time-consuming and costly regardless of whether you opt for surgical or non-surgical treatment.
Every pet is different and your dog's prognosis will depend on a number of factors including your dog's age, the severity of your dog's condition, where on the spine the injury is located, and the length of time between symptoms appearing and treatment. Your vet will take the time to carefully and compassionately explain your dog's likelihood of recovery so that you are able to make an informed treatment decision.
If you are considering euthanasia for your dog following an IVDD diagnosis, speak to your vet openly and honestly. Veterinarians understand how much you love your pet and have been trained to help you make the best decision for you and your pet.