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Intervertebral Disc Disease In Dogs

If your dog seems to be suffering from back problems, there is a good chance that your pup has developed Intervertebral Disc Disease (also known as IVDD).

IVDD occurs when the discs in your dogs’ spinal column shift and begin to protrude outward. It can be very painful for dogs as it affects the spinal cord and the nerves surrounding it.

There Are Two Kinds Of IVDD And Can Affect Dogs Of All Ages:

  • Type 1
  • Type 2

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Type 1 IVDD

Type 1 can occur in dogs of any age but dogs tend to be seen more often in stockier and shorter breeds such as:

  • Basset Hounds
  • Corgis
  • Dachshunds
  • Shit Tzus’

…and other small dogs tend to be predisposed to IVDD.

Type 1 occurs when your dog’s spine is shifted out of place and is usually due to a sudden impact.

Type 2 IVDD

Type 2 is more gradual and not as severe but the cause is the same as in Type 1: pressure on your dog’s spinal cord causing his or her disc to bulge.

Type II IVDD affects more senior dogs from 8 to 15 years old and isn’t only in the smaller breeds.

Symptoms Of Disc Disease Or Any Back Injury In Dogs?

Some of the more common symptoms of IVDD or any back injury are as follows:

  • Hard time jumping
  • Weakness and pain in the back legs
  • Yelping in pain
  • Spasms in the back or neck
  • Seemingly anxious
  • Lack of appetite
  • Back is hunched or tense
  • Activity level is much less
  • Loss of bladder control

Causes Of Disc Disease In Dogs?

The causes of Type 1 IVVD which usually occur in the neck area is when the discs located there harden. This can cause damage to the disc and may cause it to break down.

Type 1 is generally caused by a sudden impact as a hard landing when jumping causes the disc to break.

The break is what causes the pressure on the spinal cord.

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Type 2 is more of a deterioration of the discs over time. This causes them to break, put pressure on the spinal cord and bulge out.

As mentioned above, Type 2 usually occurs in older dogs and is from the years of overuse.

With Type 2, since the nerves of your dogs’ spinal cord are compressed, it can affect the whole body including all limbs and even bladder control.

In the worst cases, paralysis can occur.  Type 2 can even cause numbness in the neck or even the rear legs.

How Can You Diagnose Back Injury Problems In Dogs?

disc disease in dogs

If you think your dog has a back injury, of course, take your dog to the vet.

Your vet will conduct a full neurological exam to figure out where the injury is located in the spinal cord.

Some areas of the spinal cord are difficult to detect and in this case, your dog might need an ultrasound or other special imaging tests.

If your vet can’t locate the source of the injury, your vet might need to inject dye into the spine of your dog. This enables your vet to take a through MRI or other CT scan to figure out where the nerves are severed.

If this is the case, surgery might be necessary. This procedure requires your dog to be put under anesthesia.

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Treatment Of IVDD In Dogs

Treating a dog with IVDD or any back injury depends on the severity of the damage to the spinal cord.

If your dog just has minor damage, your vet will probably recommend anti-inflammatory pills or even steroids to help reduce the swelling.

In this case, your dog will need to be confined for six weeks in a crate so that the treatment can take effect.

After about six weeks, your dog can then go back to normal daily activity, although slowly.

If the spinal cord has severe damage and your dog is paralyzed, surgery will probably be necessary. The surgery that is performed will be an attempt to remove the portion of the vertebrae that is causing the paralysis.   Even with surgery, the return to normal activity and functioning is not a guarantee.

Some dogs with IVDD have spasms of the back and spine muscles. Heat and massage with some medication is usually the best source of treatment for spams.

Muscle relaxers, such as Diazepam and Methocarbamol, are usually recommended to help relax the nerves surrounding the spinal cord.


Depending on the severity of the injury, back surgery can cost from $3,000 to $5,000.

If your dog is a breed like a dachshund or basset hound, that has a pre-disposition for IVDD or any back injury, you might want to consider pet insurance to help offset these costs.

With dachshunds and similar breeds, it’s best to insure them when they are young before a back injury or IVDD is considered pre-existing and then your dog won’t get covered.


If your dog has a mild case of IVDD, the chances of your dog being able to have feeling in his back legs are very promising. If surgery is done right away, the chances of a full recovery are even better.

Rehabilitation with dogs that have had surgery is important to help speed up recovery and help your dog walk normally. In some cases, dogs need a mobility cart to help them become active and walk properly.


The best thing you can do for IVDD is to keep your dog at his or her optimal weight.  If your dog tends to pull at his leash, a harness would be recommended to take the strain off the neck area.

Diet, as always, helps keep your dog healthy and happy. Make sure your vet is OK with your dog’s weight and/or diet, particularly in breeds that are prone to IVDD.

Tips To Help Dogs With IVVD Or Any Back Pain

  • Eliminate Stress – Help eliminate the stress on your dog’s back and neck: You can raise your dog’s food bowls so that he doesn’t have to bend when eating or drinking.
  • Acupuncture – Acupuncture helps regenerate your dogs’ neurons mobilizing stem cell regrowth.
  • Back Support – sometimes a back brace can help relieve the strain on your dog’s back.

While IVDD is hard for us to see in our pups, your dog can still maintain a happy, long life.  As always, watch your dog closely and if there are any changes in your dog’s gait or walk, take your dog to the vet.


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1 Comment
  1. Reply
    Phil C 05/27/2017 at 10:48 am

    Both of my wiener dogs at different times were shaky and had weak hind legs.One of my dogs could not jump on the couch,could not climb stairs and would lay under the bed shaking.I thought maybe she had really bad arthritis or a bad back injury.I gave her calcium pills in wet cat food and she got better for a little while.so later I gave my dog a calcium pill in meat and my dog got worse as the days went by.Every day I gave my dog a calcium pills and she didn’t get better.It later dawned on me that maybe the wet cat food is what helped the first time.I gave my dog wet cat food every day for a few days and my dog improved immediately back to normal.Later when my other dog got the same type of condition,I gave her wet cat food and it worked for her and she went back to normal…Sharing this story because I believe it will help a lot of dogs.

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