If your dog’s been diagnosed with IVDD (Intervertebral disc disease), it can be tricky and sometimes frustrating to find the right the steps to treat the condition. That’s because there are 2 forms of this neurological condition and 5 stages of IVDD. When you add up all the possible combinations, the treatment process can quickly get complicated.
To help you make sense of your pup’s condition, we’re going to breakdown the “language” of IVDD. Then at your next veterinary appointment you’ll have a better understanding of your dog’s individual condition, now and in the future.
What is IVDD?
An estimated 2 percent of dogs will be affected by the back pain, hind end weakness and paralysis of IVDD. Dogs generally display their first symptoms after a spinal injury called a ruptured, herniated or slipped disc. But, actually the disease process of IVDD began much earlier.
Let me begin with an explanation of the spinal column.
The spine is made up of small bones called vertebrae that are stacked in a column – the vertebral column. The vertebrae are connected by intervertebral discs. Each disc has a jelly-like center that acts as a cushion between the small bones. Ligaments lined with sensitive nerves run the length of the vertebral column.
The disease of IVDD causes the discs to deteriorate prematurely. In some dogs that means the disc material dries out or hardens and presses against the bones and nerves. And in other dogs the fluid in the discs bulge and rupture into the spinal column.
The two forms of IVDD
Hansen Type I Disc Disease
This is the most common form of the disease. Dogs are usually young or middle-aged (3-6 years old) chondrodystrophic breeds. These are dogs that have short, stubby legs and long backs. They have a predisposition to develop IVDD, in part, because of their genetic makeup and because their bodies are top-heavy and carry a disproportionate amount of weight on a small frame.
Dogs with Hansen Type I have discs that dry out early in life. The damage to the spine can range from mild inflammation to total paralysis.
Hansen Type II Disc Disease
The victims of Type II disc disease are generally mature large breed dogs such as German shepherds. IVDD in these dogs develops at a slower pace as the discs become too soft to maintain their cushion protection on the spine. Eventually disc material bulges putting pressure on the spinal cord and leading to hind end weakness and paralysis.
Dog breeds prone to Hansen Type I IVDD
- French bulldogs
- Basset Hounds
- Shih Tzus
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
- Cocker Spaniels
- Lhasa Apsos
Understanding the 5 stages of IVDD
In addition to determining whether your dog has Hansen Type I or Type II disc disease, your vet will assign a stage classification to your dog. There are 5 stages and each is based on the symptoms your pet is exhibiting.
The stages range from mild symptoms to complete paralysis. Dogs can move up and down the list as their IVDD improves or worsens. The 5 stages are also a gauge about your dog’s prognosis. They help your vet decide the best course of treatment. And in many cases, dogs who fall into stage 1 or 2 do well with a conservative, non-surgical course of treatment.
If you want to learn more about conservative care for IVDD I highly recommend you check out the information at Dodgerslist.
Clinical signs of the 5 stages of IVDD
Stage 1 – There is mild pain in the back or neck, but a dog can walk normally. Dogs also show signs of back or neck stiffness and a reluctance to lift their head or jump on and off furniture.
Stage 2 – A dog is experiencing moderate to severe pain. Walking is weak and wobbly. Dogs also yelp when touched, show signs of aggression, pant or tremble.
Stage 3 – The dog is unable to walk or stand without assistance. There is pain, limb weakness and loss of muscle control. Dogs knuckle their paw when standing or drag one or more legs when walking.
Stage 4 – A dog shows signs of severe pain in the back or neck. There’s no voluntary movement of the affected limbs. Loss of bladder control.
Stage 5 – Paralysis in the two rear or front limbs. Loss of deep pain sensations. Dog is incontinent with loss of bladder/bowel control.
How you can help your dog
- If you have a dog prone to IVDD, start early in curbing them from jumping on and off furniture. The use of indoor and outdoor ramps is beneficial.
- Make sure your pup stays at a healthy weight. Ask your vet if you should add a supplement to their diet that promotes good joint health.
- Provide regular exercise such as daily walks that’s appropriate for their age and physical condition.
And if your pup shows signs of back or neck pain, take them to a vet as quickly as possible.