Intervertebral Disc Disease
Commonly Affected Breeds:
Daschund, Poodle, Pekingese, Cocker Spaniel, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso, Beagle, Bassett Hound, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, Doberman Pinscher
Signs & Symptoms
- Neck or back pain (may be only initial spine; may be mistaken as abdominal pain or constipation)
- Appearing roached in the back (ataxia)
Overall subpar performance
- May be unable to walk (or may do so with discomfort)
- Decreased awareness of where paws are placed when walking
- Inability to move legs
- Urinary retention or fecal incontinence
- Complete paralysis
- Loss of feeling in the feet
There are two types of IVDD, each with separate causes.
Type I IVDD occurs commonly in breeds with genetic mutations affecting the development of connective tissues, such as the Daschund, Pekingese and Shih Tzu, during the first two years of life. Patients may develop Type I IVDD between three and six years of age, as discs degenerate and dehydrate. They weaken and predispose to rupture and extrusion of the disc material into the vertebral canal. This may lead to compression of the spinal cord.
Type II IVDD occurs more slowly, often between ages six and eight. In this type of disc disease, the disc degenerates and gradually bulges upward, causing spinal cord compression.
Patients are thoroughly evaluated to ensure proper diagnosis and rule out any underlying conditions or abnormalities. The neurologic exam identifies where the injury is located along the spinal cord. Imaging, such as x-rays, CT, myelography or MRI, may be used to locate the area of the spinal cord needing treatment.
Depending on the severity of signs, treatment can either consist of medical management or surgical decompression. At VOSM, we recommend medical management when appropriate so that surgery is not pursued unnecessarily.
Conservative medical management consists of restricting the patient's activity to prevent progression and allow healing. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications and muscle relaxants are often prescribed to improve patient comfort.
Should surgery be necessary, decompression and removal of the offending disc material occurs. Immediately after surgery, a postoperative plan specific to the patient's needs is devised. Often, pain improves rapidly within a couple of days following surgery. At that time, depending on the patient's nursing care needs, they should be ready to return home. Neurologic function improves in the weeks to months following surgery.