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  • Writer's pictureVirginie Dardenne

What are the different stages of IVDD?

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) has a wide range of symptoms from mild pain and stiffness, to full on paralysis. This can make it fairly easy to overlook in the early stages, when the symptoms are less severe. However, it is of great important to learn what symptoms to look out for, especially if your dog is a predisposed breed like for example dachshunds. Knowing how to spot IVDD will give your dog a much better chance at recovering without losing their mobility as the best chances of full recovery is when the condition is treated early on!

IVDD can typically be broken down into five stages, stage 1 being the least severe and stage 5 being the most severe. Although there are five stages, IVDD does not always follow a linear pattern. This means that your dog could suddenly become stage 4 or 5 without ever showing symptoms of the first stages, or your dog could go from stage 2 to stage 5 very suddenly.

We listed all the different stages in the list below, keep in mind that each dog is unique and its symptoms might differ from the listed items.

Stage 1: Mild to moderate pain

  • Mild to moderate pain in the back or neck area

  • Dog might be less active than usual

  • Stiffness in the back or neck

  • Reluctance to move the head

  • Lowered head stance

  • Reluctance to jump up or down steps or furniture

Stage 2: Moderate to severe pain

  • Moderate to severe pain in the back or neck area

  • Dog might be less active than usual

  • Walking strange

  • Yelping and/or aggression when moved or touched

  • Yelping when getting up or laying down

  • Panting, trembling, lack of appetite

  • Arched (hunched) back with tense muscles

Stage 3: Ataxia (lack of coordination)

  • More severe pain in back or neck area

  • No running or jumping anymore

  • Partial paralysis causing trouble walking and/or uncoordinated movements

  • Lack of coordination in one or more limbs (ataxia)

  • Difficulty walking or sanding on their own

  • One or more paws knuckling over when standing

  • Dragging one or more limbs when walking

Stage 4: Paralysis (deep pain perception)

  • Severe pain in back or neck area

  • Paralysis (no voluntary movement) of affected limbs

  • May or may not have control of bladder and/or bowels

  • Reflexes are still in tact

  • Deep pain perception still in tact

Stage 5: Paralysis (loss of deep pain perception)

  • Severe pain in neck and back area

  • Paralysis (no voluntary movement) in affected limbs

  • Loss of bladder/bowel control (incontinence)

  • Abnormal reflexes in affected limbs

  • Loss of deep pain perception in affected limbs

It is of the utmost importance that you bring your dog to the vet immediately as any signs appear and crate rest your dog to limit movement and protect that spinal cord.

Your vet will help you further with determining what stage of IVDD your dog is in. Knowing this will help you and your vet to form a plan of action, and determine what treatment option is best for your situation (surgical or conservative care).

At stages 1 and 2, conservative (non-surgical) treatment is often a sensible first choice, though surgery may be indicated if the dog does not improve. At stages 3-5, surgical treatment is recommended, as it gives a better chance of a successful outcome.

Always be sure to consult with your vet immediately when your dog is presenting symptoms of IVDD, especially the more severe stages, as the faster you take action and get your dog treated, the higher chance they will have of making a full recovery!

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