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  • Writer's pictureVirginie Dardenne

What is IVDD?

What is IVDD?

IVDD, or Intervertebral disk disease, can also be described as a ruptured, slipped, bulging or herniated disk that can occur in a dog's neck or back. The intervertebral disc is normally a gelatinous inner substance surrounded by a ring of fibrous tissue. Intervertebral discs are meant to give the spine flexibility and help to cushion the load to the spine whenever the dog is doing movements such as running or jumping.

When your dog is diagnosed with Intervertebral disk disease, it means that this intervertebral disc protrudes between two (or more) vertebral bodies of your dog's spine or ejects material towards the spinal cord. The shock absorbing discs between your dog's vertebrae then gradually begin to harden until they are unable to cushion the vertebrae properly. The hardened discs can cause pressure on the nerve bundles in and around the spinal cord. It can lead to pain, instability, incoordination, damage to nerve tissue, muscle weakness and loss and even paralysis of the hindquarters in particular.

Which dogs are sensitive to IVDD?

IVDD is very common in breeds with a long spine and short legs such as the Dachshund, the most well-known breed that is prone to hernias or IVDD. Next to the Dachshund, there are also other breeds sensitive to IVDD, which include: Bassett Hounds, Beagles, Bulldogs, Corgis, Cocker Spaniels, Pekingese & Poodles. These short-legged dogs primarily suffer from one specific form of IVDD, called Hansen Type 1. However, there is also a second form, called Hansen Type 2. The clinical signs of the second type are similar to Type 1 but are more typically found in medium to large breeds of dogs, mostly in their later years. Some large breeds that are predisposed to Hansen Type 2 IVDD are: German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers and Doberman Pinchers.

What are the symptoms of IVDD?

A dog can have mild symptoms with solely signs of pain, such as: yelping, reluctant to move, just uses eyes- won’t turn head, or the symptoms can increase to signs of neuro diminishment: weak or wobbly legs, loss of bladder control to paralyzed legs.

To give you a clear overview of all the possible symptoms, we will list them down below:

Mild symptoms:

· Less active or less enthusiastic about activities for which the dog was previously (For e.g.: reduced activity, no more jumping or running, reduced appetite…)

· Changes in body use: less wagging or stretching, sitting less or differently, lying differently than before

· Walking differently in terms of posture or use of the legs: Wobbling while walking, coordination problems with back legs

· Muscle spasms or stiffness in the back or neck

· Retraction, by for example lying under the table or in the bench

· Weakened back legs (dragging the hind legs)

· Crying or whimpering when moved or touched

More serious symptoms:

· Poorly coordinated walking (as if the front legs and rear legs do not belong together)

· Pain manifestations when unexpected movements or approach by other dogs or people

· Not daring to move the head or neck

· Slack or even paralysis of one or more legs

· Losing control over urination or bowel movements

· Arched or hunched back

Because the early-stage symptoms might be harder to recognise than later stage symptoms (stage 4 and 5), it is of great importance to consult your veterinarian and/or neurologist if you notice one or more of the symptoms mentioned above.

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