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IVDD In Dogs: Symptoms and Treatments

IVDD In Dogs: Symptoms and Treatments

IVDD—or intervertebral disc disease—is a degenerative condition affecting the spinal cord of your dog and causing a host of painful issues with mobility. Our Oakland veterinarians are here to explain IVDD in pets, including its diagnosis and treatment. 

What is IVDD?

IVDD—Intervertebral disk disease—can also be described as a slipped, ruptured or herniated disc. We most commonly see this condition in breeds like American cocker spaniels, dachshunds and beagles but this condition can affect any dog.

What causes IVDD in dogs?

IVDD is age-related and gradually degenerative, meaning it affects your pup's spine over a long period of time without being detected. Even if your dog attends annual exams, your vet may not be able to detect IVDD until your dog's disc becomes ruptured and their painful symptoms become obvious. ANything could initiate the rupture, even something as simple and everyday as jumping up onto the sofa.

IVDD occurs when the shock-absorbing discs between your dog's vertebrae start to harden until they can't cushion your dog's spinal movements. They will go on to bulge and compress the spine and damage your pup's nerve impulses. A jump or hard landing at this stage can cause a disc to painfully burst, possibly damage your dog's nerves or causing paralysis.  

What are the symptoms of IVDD in dogs?

Intervertebral disc disease can occur in any disc on your pup's spine. Its symptoms will depend on how severe the damage to your dog's spine is and where it is. IVDD's symptoms may appear suddenly or onset gradually. If you notice any of the symptoms for the three following kinds of IVDD, bring your dog into your vet as soon as possible. This condition can be incredibly painful and early treatment is your best bet for stopping it before it grows worse.

Symptoms of Neck Intervertebral Disc Disease (Cervical IVDD)

Cervical IVDD affects the discs in your dog's neck. If you notice one or more of the following symptoms, contact your vet for advice or visit the closes emergency animal hospital.

  • Inability to stand
  • Unsteadiness in all 4 legs
  • Head held low
  • Reluctance to move
  • Shivering or crying
  • Arching back 
  • Inability to walk normally
  • Knuckling of all 4 paws
  • Inability to support own weight
  • Inability to feel all 4 feet and legs

Symptoms of Back Intervertebral Disc Disease (Thoracolumbar IVDD)

Thoracolumbar IVDD affects discs in the back region of your dog's spine. If you notice any of the symptoms below, contact your vet as soon as possible. 

  • Muscle spasms
  • Weakness in hind legs
  • Crossing back legs when walking
  • Knuckling of back paws, or dragging rear legs
  • Tense belly 
  • Inability to walk normally
  • Inability to support their own weight
  • Unable to move or feel back legs

Symptoms of Lower-Back Intervertebral Disc Disease (Lumbosacral IVDD)

If your dog is suffering from Lobosacral IVDD, your dog has damaged discs in their lower back. Contact your vet if you believe you dog is suffering from this condition.

  • Urinary or fecal incontinence
  • Pain and/or difficulty jumping
  • Limp tail
  • Dilated anus

How is IVDD diagnosed in dogs?

If your dog begins showing any of the above symptoms immediate veterinary care is required. Tests for diagnosing Intervertebral Disc Disease typically include standard x-rays, a neurological exam, and/or MRI to help locate the disc or discs causing your dog's symptoms.

What is the treatment for IVDD?

The diagnosis and treatment of IVDD need to start as early as possible in order to achieve the best possible treatment outcomes. Because of this, we advise that you take your dog to your vet for a comprehensive examination as soon as you spot any signs of IVDD in your dog. Delaying their treatment could cause irreversible lifelong damage.

Anti-Inflammatory Medications

If your dog is diagnosed with a mild to moderate IVDD injury, treatment may include steroid and anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce pain and swelling, combined with strictly reduced activity for approximately 4 -6 weeks


Dogs suffering from more severe cases of Intervertebral Disc Disease are often recommended surgery when rest and medicine aren't sufficient. During this procedure, your dog's veterinary surgeon will remove their hardened disc material so it no longer presses on your poup's spinal cord. 

Surgery outcomes are most successful in dogs that have not lost their ability to walk. If your dog's surgery is not successful in returning your pet to normal mobility, a dog wheelchair can help your pup to enjoy a happy and active life while living with Intervertebral Disc Disease.

Recovery from IVDD surgery requires 6 - 8 weeks of restricted activity. Running, climbing stairs, playing with other dogs, or jumping on furniture need to be prevented in order to avoid further damage as your dog's spine heals.

Physical Therapy

Following surgery, your vet may also recommend physical therapy for your dog in order to work on muscle strengthening and to help get your pet moving comfortably again.

If your dog is showing any symptoms of IVDD, it's critical that you seek emergency veterinary care as soon as possible. Contact your primary care vet or bring you dog to the closest emergency vet hospital. At East Bay Veterinary Clinic. our veterinarians are here for your pet during our regular business hours. Contact us for high quality and rapid treatment for your dog's conditions. 

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