YOUR DOG GOT DIAGNOSED WITH IVDD... WHAT NOW?
You might feel that your world has collapsed when your dog got diagnosed with IVDD. Remember this: IVDD is not the end for a dog. Many dogs recover, full or partly, and even without a full recovery, your dog can live with IVDD.
We'll give you an overview of things to know about IVDD and what you might need on this IVDD journey.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT IVDD
WHAT IS IVDD?
IVDD, or Intervertebral Disk Disease, is a common spinal cord disease affecting dogs. The intervertebral disks are like cushions between the spinal vertebrae, over time, they might bulge or rupture because of several degenerative factors.
IVDD is very common in breeds with a long spine and short legs, and might cause paralysis in the severe stages. This happens because the ruptured disks might put pressure on the neurological nerves which breaks or disrupts the connection. In fact there are 5 different stages of IVDD, and your dog has the best chance of recovering when caught early on.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT STAGES OF IVDD?
There are 5 different stages in IVDD, the best chances of full recovery is when the condition is treated early on.
Stage 1: Your dog is in mild pain and might be less active than usual.
Stage 2: Your dog is in quite a bit of pain on the neck or spine, less active and might start walking strange.
Stage 3: The pain gets quite bad for your dog, partial paralysis might come up and you will see your dog acting very strange. He/she will probably not jump or run anymore.
Stage 4: This stage is quite advanced. By now, your dog will probably be paralysed in the back legs, be in a lot of pain, but still feel his back legs. (with DPS/deep pain sensation)
Stage 5: This is the worst kind of IVDD, your dog is completely paralysed in the affected legs and have no sensation there. This is called stage 5 IVDD with no DPS.
WHAT DOES IVDD MEAN FOR YOUR DOG?
Depending on the stage of IVDD, your dog might need several treatments. This goes from rest, to medications and, in severe cases, surgery. You need to be aware that in the future, letting your dog jump, walking stairs and other extreme activities, might not be a good idea anymore.
IVDD is not the end for a dog, while each case is different, you and your dog will need to adjust to your new situation. Even if your dog does not fully recover, there are many options to make their lives comfortable. You can use doggie wheels, a buggy, pee pads and many more.
CAN A DOG RECOVER FROM IVDD?
A dog can definitely recover, but as each case is different, it's impossible to predict how your dog will recover. Dog's with an early stage IVDD are very likely to make a full recovery. IVDD stage 5 is the most severe stage, and therefor the most unpredictable in terms of recovery. There is definitely a chance for your dog to fully recover after treatment, but you need to realise there's also a chance that your dog will remain paralysed. A paralysed dog with no pain can still live a great life for many years.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF IVDD?
Early stage symptoms might be harder te recognise than stage 4 or 5 symptoms. It's very important to consult your veterinarian and/or neurologist if you notice any of the symptoms below.
Reduced activity, no more jumping or running
Muscle spasms or stiffness in the back or neck
Crying or whimpering when moved or touched
Arched or hunched back
Loosing control over urination or bowel movements
Wobbling while walking
Weakened back legs
Coordination problems with back legs
Paralysis of one or more legs
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENTS FOR IVDD?
As each IVDD case if unique, each treatment plan will be different? Mainly there are two treatment options: conservative (non surgical) or surgery. Besides these two main options, there can be prescribed medication, therapy sessions and others that can benefit your dog's mobility.
The idea behind the treatment is to relief the pressure on your dog's spine. Here's an overview of the treatment options:
Crate rest for several weeks almost always applies, for both the conservative and surgical treatment.
Medication might be prescribed such as steroids, anti-inflammatory and pain-killers to help with the inflammation and pain.
Hydrotherapie to strengthen the dog's muscles and mobility.
Physical therapy, manual therapy, acupuncture, and other therapies done by a professional.
Home exercises to restore the mobility and muscle strength.
Surgery is usually the last resort, but sometimes the only option. While costs are quite high (depending on the country and hospital - approximately 2000€ - 6000€) the results are usually beneficial.
Loads of patience, persistence, love and hope are needed to guide your dog through this difficult road of recovery.
CAN A DOG HAPPILY LIVE WITH IVDD?
A dog can definitely live a happy life with IVDD, whether he/she has made a full recovery or not. The main factor deciding your dog's happiness is the fact if he is pain or not. In case your dog is still in pain after several weeks of treatment, you might need to ask yourself the difficult question whether it's worth putting your dog through this difficult journey. If living without any pain, your dog can live a great life regardless if he is paralysed or not. There are many options out there to help your dog get by. Options are back leg harnesses, doggie wheelchairs, doggie buggy's, drag-bags, and many more.
One aspect to make sure to respect in the future is no more stairs and jumping! Learn your dog to use a ramp for sofa access and do not let them near stairs anymore.
WHAT CAN I DO TO PREVENT IVDD?
Since IVDD is also genetically inherited, there's only a few things you can do to prevent IVDD and other back-injuries.
Limiting your dog's jumping in and out of sofa's, beds etc. are definitely important.
Additionally, stairs should not be used by long and short-legged dogs like dachshunds.
Your dog should get enough exercise which helps him/her develop muscles to support the back.
Keeping your dog on a healthy weight si very important to limit the pressure on the spine.
It's important to remember that you can not always prevent such a disease and to not blame yourself if your dog does get a back-injury.
IS REHABILITATION IMPORTANT AFTER IVDD TREATMENT?
Rehabilitation after a spinal cord injury is very important, also for dogs. It will help her/him to strengthen muscles and regain mobility and flexibility. It takes not only a lot of energy from the dog, but also from their owners, as much time is put into it.
IS AN IVDD DOG INCONTINENT?
Depending on the severeness of the spinal cord injury, the ability to pee and poop might be affected. Generally, if the dog isn't paralysed, he/she will not be incontinent either. If at the time of the diagnose your dog cannot pee or poop by him/herself, it might return after treatment, but there is a chance that your dog will stay incontinent. While it's not ideal, your vet will show you how to express your dog's bladder. We've experiences that keeping a strict "going outside" schedule will help your dog to minimise the accidents. Special dog diapers might be an option although they are known to cause some irritation to the skin.