What is IVDD?
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a degenerative disease that affects the discs in the spine of dogs and other animals. It can cause a wide range of symptoms from mild pain to full on paralysis of one or more limbs. The severity of your dog’s symptoms depends on the degree of degeneration of the discs.
What is a disc?
Between each vertebrae in the spine, there is a disc which acts as a cushion. It allows the spine to bend and absorbs the shocks from regular activity and movement. Each disc has a soft, gel like center, surrounded by a harder rubbery outer layer.
What is disc degeneration?
When a disc degenerates, the outer layer starts to harden and become brittle. All discs degenerate over time as the dog ages, but dogs who have IVDD will have accelerated degeneration of their discs. In fact, most dogs are diagnosed with IVDD between the ages of 3 and 7 years old.
How can IVDD cause paralysis?
The disc ruptures…
Eventually, when a disc becomes too hard and brittle, the outer layer will rupture, forcing the inner material to burst out into the spinal column. The disc material may compress the spinal cord, causing paralysis of the limbs. Depending on where the injury is, it can affect the front or rear limbs. If the disc ruptures forcefully, it may cause bruising and damage to the spinal cord, resulting in a longer or lower recovery rate. Intense swelling along the spinal cord can cause even more pain and damage. That’s why it’s so important to get your dog on anti-inflammatory medication as soon as possible. Nearby nerves that stem out from the spinal cord may also be affected.
What causes a disc to rupture?
A degenerated disc can rupture at any time once it as become brittle enough. It could be caused by a traumatic injury like being hit by a car, or attacked by another dog. It could also be caused by playing, running, or jumping. Still, other dogs go to sleep perfectly fine, only to wake up paralyzed. It really just depends on the state of the discs.
What can I do to prevent it?
There is no known cure to stop the discs from degenerating, but you can help by taking some preventative measures. Things like not letting your dog use stairs or jump off of furniture may help. Most importantly, know the early signs and symptoms to look out for, especially is your dog is a predisposed breed. This will give you a better chance at catching it before it escalates to full paralysis. Sometimes, it is unavoidable. But if your dog becomes paralyzed, rest assured that their life is not over. With the right tools and attitude, your dog can still have a good quality of life. And with the right treatment and therapy, they probably have a good chance at recovering their mobility. It just takes time.