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Understanding Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) in Dogs

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a common and potentially debilitating condition that affects dogs, especially those with long spines like Dachshunds, Corgis, and Beagles. This ailment involves the deterioration or herniation of the intervertebral discs that cushion the spinal vertebrae. IVDD can cause severe pain, paralysis, and even loss of mobility in affected dogs. In this article, we will delve into the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of IVDD to help dog owners better understand and manage this condition.


IVDD primarily results from age-related wear and tear on the intervertebral discs, but it can also be attributed to genetic factors in some breeds. Common causes include:

Age: Older dogs are more prone to IVDD due to the natural degeneration of their intervertebral discs.

Genetics: Certain dog breeds have a genetic predisposition to IVDD. These include Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, and French Bulldogs.

Trauma: Sudden injuries or accidents can lead to disc herniation in dogs of all breeds.


IVDD symptoms can range from mild discomfort to severe paralysis. Recognizing these signs early is crucial for timely treatment. Common symptoms include:

Back pain: Dogs may exhibit signs of discomfort, reluctance to move, or vocalization when touched on their back.

Lameness: Affected dogs may have an unsteady gait, dragging their hind legs, or showing weakness in the limbs.

Paralysis: In severe cases, dogs may lose the ability to move their hind legs or even become completely paralyzed.

Incontinence: IVDD can lead to loss of bladder and bowel control in some dogs.


If you suspect your dog may have IVDD, it’s essential to consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. The vet will perform a thorough physical examination and may recommend diagnostic tests such as:

X-rays: These can help identify abnormalities in the spine, including disc herniation or calcification.

Myelogram: A contrast dye is injected into the spinal canal, making it easier to spot abnormalities on X-rays.

MRI or CT scan: These advanced imaging techniques provide detailed views of the spinal cord and discs.


The treatment approach for IVDD depends on the severity of the condition. Mild cases may be managed conservatively, while more severe cases may require surgery. Treatment options include:

Rest and pain management: Mild cases can often be managed with strict cage rest, pain medications, and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Physical therapy: This can help improve mobility and reduce pain in dogs recovering from IVDD.

Surgery: For severe cases or dogs with paralysis, surgery may be necessary to remove the damaged disc material and relieve pressure on the spinal cord.

Acupuncture and chiropractic care: Some owners explore alternative therapies to complement traditional treatments.


While not all cases of IVDD can be prevented, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk for your dog:

Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight places additional strain on the spine and can contribute to disc degeneration.

Regular exercise: Keeping your dog active can help strengthen their muscles and support their spine.

Avoid high-impact activities: Limit activities that involve jumping or running on hard surfaces, especially for breeds prone to IVDD.

Proper nutrition: Feed your dog a balanced diet to support overall health and well-being.

Intervertebral Disc Disease is a challenging condition that can have a significant impact on a dog’s quality of life. Early detection and appropriate treatment are key to managing IVDD and improving the chances of a successful outcome. By understanding the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of IVDD, dog owners can provide the best possible care for their furry companions and minimize the risk of this debilitating disease. If you suspect your dog may be suffering from IVDD, consult your veterinarian promptly to discuss the best course of action for your beloved pet.