Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a condition in which the spongy, shock absorbing disc, which resides between every back bone, extrudes and puts pressure on the spinal cord. Depending on the degree of extrusion, the pet may exhibit clinical signs ranging from pain to paralysis. 

IVDD occurs for two main reasons: acute, traumatic extrusion and chronic, degenerative extrusion. In either case, the outcome is often the same. The two most common locations are the mid-lower back and the neck. The scenarios are also very similar. Usually a pet has fallen or jumped off of a normal obstacle and landed "wrong". Depending on the degree of injury, the pet may just appear painful and slow moving. With mid-lower back IVDD, they often arch the back and keep the tail tucked low. With cervical, or neck IVDD, they often keep the head in a low and neutral position. They are very resistant to head and neck manipulation. Neck pain is usually severe.

Diagnosis is possible with a thorough history and physical examination. Radiographs are often performed to not only identify the problem, but also determine the location as well as rule out other potential diseases. Occasionally, more sensitive and advanced imaging such as a CT or MRI may be required.

This condition is potentially progressive if the animal is not kept calm. The progression of IVDD begins with pain, then paresis (unsteady, "drunk" walk, criss crossing feet, etc), then paralysis (with or without maintaining deep/bone pain). Type of treatment is determined by extent of injury. Strictly enforced rest (small room, cage, etc) and anti-inflammatory medication is often all that is required for dogs who exhibit only pain. Dogs exhibiting paresis should be considered a surgical candidate. It is still possible for healing with hospitalization and aggressive steroid use, but these patients are at a significant risk of progressing towards paralysis. Dogs with paralysis should have surgery to remove the damaged disc material from the spinal cord. This type of a procedure should be performed within 24 hours of injury and only with a neurosurgeon for best outcome. 

Preventing IVDD may be possible by preventing obesity. Exercise in an otherwise healthy pet should be encouraged