IVDD Surgery In Dogs

Dogs suffering from Disc Disease can have difficulty walking so surgery may be recommended by your vet. IVDD surgeries aim to restore mobility and reduce pain. In this article, our Novato vets discuss IVDD in dogs. 

What is an Intervertebral Disc?

The intervertebral disc is a gelatinous inner substance surrounded by a ring of fibrous tissue. Intervertebral discs give the spine flexibility and help to cushion the load to the spine whenever your dog is doing movements such as running or jumping.

What is IVDD?

Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) can also be described as a ruptured, slipped, bulging or herniated disk that can occur in your dog's neck or back. This condition is often seen in beagles, dachshunds, pekingese, shih tzus, and basset hounds but may occur in dogs of any size or breed. 

What causes IVDD in dogs?

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a degenerative condition that primarily affects the spinal cord of dogs as they age. This gradual process often goes unnoticed over time.

IVDD occurs when the discs between the vertebrae, responsible for absorbing shocks, gradually harden. As a result, they lose their ability to properly cushion the vertebrae. These hardened discs may then bulge and exert pressure on the spinal cord, leading to potential damage to nerve impulses.

This can affect functions like bladder and bowel control in dogs. In some cases, a seemingly simple jump or an improper landing can cause one or more of these hardened discs to rupture, exerting pressure on the nerves of the spinal cord. This can result in pain, nerve damage, or even paralysis.

Can a dog recover from IVDD without surgery?

In cases where your dog has been diagnosed with IVDD but can still walk, non-surgical treatments may offer potential for recovery. However, if your dog's IVDD is severe and they have lost the ability to walk, immediate emergency treatment is necessary

Non-surgical treatment, also known as conservative treatment or management, aims to alleviate pain and discomfort, restore mobility, and regain bladder and bowel control. The primary goals of non-surgical treatment are to provide relief, facilitate standing and walking, and address the loss of bladder and bowel control in your dog.

  • Strict Crate-Rest - If you are trying to relieve your dog's IVDD symptoms without surgery, strict rest is going to be essential and is going to require patience! Your dog will need to be strictly confined to a small room or crate for least 4 weeks in order to give the dog's body sufficient time to try and mend the damage.
  • Dietary Care - Your vet will carefully calculate the precise number of calories required by your pet in order to manage weight and help to prevent added pressure on their spine.
  • Physical Rehabilitation (Physical Therapy) - A rehabilitation practitioner will assess your dog's current condition and recommend a treatment plan which will include a combination of at-home treatments and professional treatment. Rehab can work wonders for pets suffering from mild - moderate cases of IVDD, as well as those recovering from surgery.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications - Non-surgical treatment of IVDD in dogs will likely include steroid and anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce pain and swelling. These medications are used in conjunction with restricted activity and crate-rest.

Surgical Treatment of IVDD

In cases of severe IVDD in dogs, surgery is often considered the most effective and sometimes the only treatment option. The primary objective of IVDD surgery is to alleviate pressure on the spinal cord by removing the affected intervertebral disc material. This surgical intervention aims to restore normal blood flow and prevent future disc-related issues. The specific surgical approach or combination of procedures used will depend on the location of the diseased disc.

There are several different surgeries available for treating IVDD, including hemilaminectomy, laminectomy, fenestration, and ventral slot procedures. In certain instances, a vertebral stabilization or fusion procedure may be recommended, particularly for large breed dogs. The selection of the appropriate surgical technique will be determined by the specific circumstances of your dog's condition.

IVDD Surgery Success Rates

In the majority of cases, surgery is a highly successful treatment option for IVDD. The best outcomes are typically observed in dogs who have not lost their ability to walk. However, in cases where dogs have experienced ongoing IVDD symptoms, there is a risk of spinal cord atrophy, which can result in less favorable outcomes.

If IVDD surgery does not achieve the desired level of mobility restoration, a dog wheelchair can provide assistance, enabling your dog to lead a happy and active life despite living with Intervertebral Disc Disease. Recovery from IVDD surgery typically involves a period of 6 to 8 weeks with restricted activity, combined with appropriate medications for pain management and reducing swelling. Your veterinarian may also suggest physical rehabilitation during a pet health exam, to aid in your pet's recovery process.

Should I consider euthanasia for my dog with severe IVDD?

As the caregiver of a dog diagnosed with severe IVDD, you are undoubtedly faced with challenging decisions regarding your beloved pet's treatment. Your veterinarian will provide a thorough explanation of the available treatment options and the expected outcomes for each. Whether you choose surgical or non-surgical treatment, caring for a dog in recovery from IVDD requires a significant investment of time and effort.

Each pet's situation is unique, and your dog's prognosis will depend on various factors, including age, the severity and location of the spinal injury, and the timing between symptom onset and treatment. Your veterinarian will compassionately discuss your dog's chances of recovery, enabling you to make an informed decision about the most suitable treatment. If you are contemplating euthanasia for your dog after an IVDD diagnosis, it is essential to have an open and honest conversation with your vet. They are trained to support you in making the best decision for both you and your pet.

If your dog needs surgery, contact our Novato vets. Our team can offer the surgery and post treatment your pet needs to recover.