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What is IVDD and How Can I Help My Dog with IVDD?

What is IVDD and How Can I Help My Dog with IVDD?


Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD), sometimes referred to as a slipped or herniated disk, refers to a syndrome of pain and neurological problems that accompany degeneration of one or more intervertebral disks. These disks are pillow-like pads that act as shock-absorbers between adjoining vertebrae - the bones that make up the backbone or spine. Intervertebral disks can become displaced, deteriorate, collapse, bulge out (protrude), rupture or herniate in dogs as a result of gradual degeneration due to conformational abnormalities, obesity, genetics, repetitive trauma or other factors.
This compresses the spinal cord and nerves at the damage site. Dogs with IVDD have symptoms ranging from mild pain (lowered head, reluctance to move, stiffness, sensitivity to touch), to severe pain (arched back, lameness, dragging legs, inability to stand, crying when touched or moving, trembling, staggering, collapse), to partial or complete paralysis. IVDD is one of the most common neurological disorders in companion animals and reportedly affects 2% of the domestic dog population.

How IVDD Affects Dogs

Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) can cause a number of symptoms in domestic dogs, ranging from signs of mild pain to partial or complete paralysis. Most cases fall somewhere in between these two extremes. The signs of IVDD can mimic those of acutely ruptured disks such as from trauma or otherwise, but the causes are very different. IVDD occurs more commonly in certain breeds but can occur in any breed or mix of breeds and in dogs of any age or gender. IVDD can lead to permanent nerve damage, making timely recognition and intervention extremely important.

Symptoms of IVDD

The observable signs of intervertebral disk disease can be quite variable. Owners of affected dogs may notice one or more of the following symptoms, which can be sudden, intermittent or gradual in onset:
  • Neck pain and stiffness (reluctance to move the neck and head)
  • Lowered head stance
  • Back pain and stiffness
  • Yelping unexpectedly when touched or moving
  • Abdominal tenderness or tenseness
  • Arched back (hunched posture, called €œthoracolumbar kyphosis€)
  • Sensitivity to touch (possible aggression)
  • Sensitivity to movement
  • Impaired, incomplete or inappropriate urination
  • Lameness
  • Dragging one or more legs when walking
  • €œToeing over€ or €œknuckling over€ when walking or standing
  • Weakness
  • Stiffness
  • Stilted gait; tentative gait
  • Reluctance to rise
  • Tremors, trembling, shaking
  • Lack of coordination (€œataxia€)
  • Abnormal reflexes
  • Collapse
  • Paralysis in one or more limbs

Owners often notice similar signs after their dog has engaged in strenuous physical activity or experienced acute physical trauma. An acutely ruptured disk can be caused in an otherwise normal dog by jumping off high places, jumping out of a car or off the bed of a pick-up truck, playing a rousing game of fetch or Frisbee or leaping out of an owner's arms, among other activities. A healthy dog can also suffer acute-onset of disk damage when it has been hit by a car, attacked by another animal or experienced some other form of trauma. This type of acute traumatic injury is not the same as IVDD, although the symptoms can be very similar. IVDD involves a degenerative process and does not result merely from sudden trauma, although sudden trauma can cause rupture or herniation of an intervertebral disk in a dog whose disks already are weakened by IVDD.

Dogs At Increased Risk


Intervertebral disk disease occurs primarily in middle-aged chondrodystrophic breeds (3 to 6 years). When it occurs in nonchondrodystrophic breeds, they typically are older (8 to 10 years). Chondrodystrophy is a disorder of cartilage formation. Cartilage is a specialized, tough, gristly type of connective tissue that essentially provides a model for bone development and growth. In chondodystrophic breeds such as Dachshunds, Bulldogs and Bassett Hounds, chondrodystrophy is seen as characteristic angular limb deformities and abnormally short legs otherwise known as hereditary dwarfism. Other chondrodystrophic breeds include Beagles, Corgis, Cocker Spaniels, Pekingese, Shih-Tzus and Poodles. Nonchondrodystrophic breeds that are commonly affected by IVDD include German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers and Doberman Pinschers. Obese dogs of predisposed breeds are especially likely to suffer from IVDD.


How Can I prevent IVDD Or Help My IVDD Dog?

The best way to prevent IVDD if your dog is at risk is to restrict any unwanted movement. The Wiggleless Back Brace can be used to support and stabilise the spinal column and restrict any unwanted movement, twisting or jumping which could cause injury to the spine or further damage any minor spinal injuries.




Treatment options for IVDD range from rest and conservative medical management to surgical intervention. The exact therapeutic protocol will vary depending upon the severity of the disease. In acute cases, pain management and control of inflammation are the first priorities. Cage rest is needed to restrict any movement whether or not surgical intervention is undertaken.

The Wiggleless Back Brace is often used in these cases to keep the back straight and supported. Your dog will also need some pain management. We offer Winston's Pain Formula which is a very popular product offering natural and strong pain relief and anti-inflammatory, it can be used on top of any vet medication your dog is already taking. It is also recommended that any dogs with back or joint pain have a high quality and comfortable bed, this is particularly important for dogs on cage rest as they will be using their bed for long periods of time. We recommend the Balto Orthopaedic Memory Foam Bed, this is a very high quality and thick memory foam made in Italy and specifically designed for older dogs or dogs with joint or back pains.

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