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My dog has IVDD, does he need surgery?

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a painful and serious condition that affects the spine of your dog. If your dog has been diagnosed with IVDD, which makes it difficult for them to walk, surgery may be the best and only way to relieve pain and restore mobility.

The Intervertebral Disc

The intervertebral disc is a fibrous ring with a jelly-like inner substance that is an important part of your dog's spine. When your dog is actively moving, running, or jumping, intervertebral discs help to cushion the vertebrae and give the spine flexibility.

What is IVDD in Dogs?

A ruptured, slipped, bulging, or herniated disk in your dog's back or neck is known as intervertebral disk disease (IVDD). While this condition can affect any dog breed, dachshunds, Pekingese, shih-tzus, basset hounds, and beagles are the most commonly affected.

Causes of IVDD in Dogs

Intervertebral Disc Disease is a gradual, age-related, degenerative process that affects the spinal cord of the dog over some time. 

The shock-absorbing discs between your dog's vertebrae gradually harden until they can no longer cushion the vertebrae properly, resulting in IVDD. The hardened discs often bulge and compress the spinal cord, damaging the dog's nerve impulses that control bladder and bowel control in many cases.

In other cases, a simple jump or a bad landing can cause one or more of the hardened discs to burst and press against the dog's spinal nerves, causing pain, nerve damage, or even paralysis.

Treatment for IVDD in Dogs

Can a dog recover from IVDD without surgery? If your pup has IVDD but is still able to walk non-surgical treatments may be able to help your pet recover from IVDD. On the other hand, if your dog has a severe case of IVDD and has lost its ability to walk, urgent emergency treatment is required, (which will likely include surgery). 

Non-surgical treatment for IVDD

The goal of non-surgical IVDD treatment (also known as conservative treatment or IVDD management) is to relieve your dog's pain and discomfort, get him up and walking again, and regain bladder and bowel control. Crate rest, anti-inflammatory medications, dietary management (managing your dog's weight to relieve pressure on their back), and physical rehabilitation are all non-surgical treatments for IVDD in dogs (physical therapy for dogs).

Surgery for Dogs with IVDD

Surgery may be the best and only option in severe cases where the dog has lost their ability to walk. The goal of IVDD surgery is to remove diseased intervertebral disk material from the dog's spine to relieve pressure on the spinal cord. Relieving pressure on your pet's spinal cord can aid in the restoration of normal blood flow and the prevention of future disc problems.

There are a variety of surgeries that can be used alone or in combination to treat dogs with IVDD. The surgery that is recommended for your dog will be based on where the diseased disc is located. Hemilaminectomy, laminectomy, fenestration, and ventral slot are some of the IVDD surgeries. A vertebral stabilization (fusion) procedure may be recommended for some dogs, particularly larger breeds.

Speak to your vet regarding the cost of IVDD surgery. They will provide you with a good-faith estimate.

IVDD Surgery Success Rates

Surgery for dogs with IVDD is very successful in the majority of cases. Outcomes are most successful in dogs that have not lost their ability to walk.

In dogs that have had ongoing symptoms of IVDD, atrophy of the spinal cord can occur and lead to less successful outcomes.

It will take 6 to 8 weeks for you to recover from IVDD surgery. Your dog will need medications to help with pain and swelling while the spine heals, and you will need to limit your dog's activity to very low levels. Physical rehabilitation (physical therapy for dogs) may be recommended by your veterinarian to aid your dog's recovery.

If IVDD surgery is not successful in restoring your dog's mobility, a doggie wheelchair can help your pup to enjoy a happy and active life while living with Intervertebral Disc Disease.

Should I consider euthanasia for my dog with severe IVDD?

Because every dog is different, the prognosis of your pet will be determined by a variety of factors. Your veterinarian will carefully and compassionately explain the chances of your dog recovering from IVDD so you can make an informed treatment decision.

If you're thinking about euthanasia for your dog after an IVDD diagnosis, talk to your vet about it. Veterinarians have been specially trained to assist you in making the best decision for you and your dog.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog is showing signs of IVDD, contact Colonial Park Animal Clinic to book an appointment or visit your nearest emergency veterinary clinic for urgent care.

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