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IVDD Surgery in Dogs

IVDD Surgery in Dogs

While dogs with IVDD do not always need surgery to correct the condition, a procedure may be the best treatment option if Intervertebral Disc Disease has impacted your pup's ability to walk. The goal of IVDD surgeries is to reduce pain, restore mobility and prevent further disc problems. Our Farmington Hills vets share some information on treatment options for IVDD in dogs.


What is an Intervertebral Disc?

An intervertebral disc is a gelatinous inner substance that's surrounded by a ring of fibrous tissue. These discs allow the spine to flex and help to cushion the load on the spine whenever your dog is doing activities such as jumping or running. 

What is IVDD?

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) occurs is an age-related gradual degenerative process that can affect a dog's spinal cord over a period of time, often undetected. It occurs when a disc in your dog's back or neck ruptures, bulges or slips. It also happens with herniated discs. 

The condition is often seen in basset hounds, beagles, dachshunds, shih tzus and Pekingese but can occur in dogs of any breed or size. 

What causes IVDD in dogs?

IVDD occurs when the shock-absorbing discs in your dog's vertebrae gradually start to harden until they are unable to properly cushion the vertebrae. The hardened discs will typically go on to bulge and compress the spinal cord, often damaging the dog's nerve impulses such as those that control bowel and bladder control. In other cases, a poor landing or simple jump may cause one or more of the hardened discs to burst and put pressure on the nerves of the dog's spinal cord causing pain, possible nerve damage or even paralysis. 

Can a dog recover from IVDD without surgery?

It's possible for a dog to be diagnosed with IVDD and still be able to walk. In these circumstances, non-surgical treatment may aid in recovery. However, if your dog's case of IVDD is severe enough to impede their ability to walk, urgent emergency treatment is needed. 

Non-surgical treatment for IVDD is also known as conservative treatment or management. With non-surgical treatment, goals will be to help relieve pain and discomfort, to help your dog stand or walk again, and to help restore lost bowel and bladder control. Non-surgical treatment options for IVDD in dogs include: 

  • Dietary Care - Your vet will carefully calculate the precise number of calories required by your pet in order to manage weight and help to prevent added pressure on their spine.
  • Strict Crate-Rest - If you are trying to relieve your dog's IVDD symptoms without surgery, strict rest is going to be essential and is going to require patience! Your dog will need to be strictly confined to a small room or crate for least 4 weeks in order to give the dog's body sufficient time to try and mend the damage.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications - Non-surgical treatment of IVDD in dogs usually involves steroid and anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce pain and swelling. These medications are used in conjunction with restricted activity and crate-rest.
  • Physical Rehabilitation (Physical Therapy) - A rehabilitation practitioner will assess your dog's current condition and recommend a treatment plan which will include a combination of at-home treatments and professional treatment. Rehab can work well for pets suffering from mild to moderate cases of IVDD, as well as those recovering from surgery.

Surgery is considered the best, and in some cases the only, treatment for severe cases of IVDD in dogs. The goal of IVDD surgery is to remove the diseased intervertebral disc material in order to relieve the pressure on your dog's spinal cord, restore normal blood flow, and prevent disc problems in the future. In order to achieve this goal a combination of surgeries may be used to treat dogs with IVDD.

Which surgeries are used to treat your dog's IVDD will largely depend upon the location of the diseased disc. There are a number of different IVDD surgeries including hemilaminectomy, laminectomy, fenestration and ventral slot. In some cases a vertebral stabilization (fusion) procedure may also be recommended, especially in large breed dogs. How much IVDD surgery costs will depend on many factors. You will be able to find out more after your dog has been accurately assessed and diagnosed, and a treatment plan has been prescribed. 

IVDD Surgery Success Rates

Surgery is typically very successful in the majority of cases. Outcomes are most successful in dogs that have not lost their ability to walk. In dogs that have had ongoing symptoms of IVDD atrophy of the spinal cord can occur and lead to less successful outcomes.

If IVDD surgery is not successful in returning your pet to normal mobility, a dog wheelchair can help your pup to enjoy a happy and active life while living with Intervertebral Disc Disease. Recovery from IVDD surgery requires 6 to 8 weeks of restricted activity combined with appropriate medications to help with pain management and swelling.

At Angel Animal Hospital, our vets have a range of tests and tools at our disposal for diagnosing and treating internal conditions. If your vet is not able to diagnose and/or treat your dog's condition, we can refer you to a veterinary specialist near Farmington Hills. Physical rehabilitation (physical therapy for dogs) may also be recommended to help in the recovery process. 

Should I consider euthanasia for my dog with severe IVDD?

If you're the pet parent of a dog that has been diagnosed with severe IVDD, you are likely facing some very difficult questions regarding treatment for your beloved pet. Your vet will be sure to explain the treatment options that are available, and the likely outcome for each. Caring for a dog that is recovering from IVDD can be time-consuming and costly whether you opt for surgical or non-surgical treatment.

Every pet is different and your dog's prognosis will depend on a number of factors including your dog's age, the severity of the spinal injury, where on the spine the injury is located, and the length of time between symptoms appearing and treatment. Your vet will carefully and compassionately explain your dog's likelihood of recovery so that you are able to make an informed treatment decision. If you are considering euthanasia for your dog following an IVDD diagnosis, speak to your vet openly and honestly, they have been trained to help you make the best decision for you and your pet.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Does your dog need IVDD surgery? Want to learn more about surgical procedures at Angel Animal Hospital? Contact our vets in Farmington Hills today to book an appointment.

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