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Intervertebral Disc Disease in dogs… Symptoms, expectations and costs!

Now for those of us over that age of 40 who have an intimate understanding of exactly what intervertebral disc disease is, once you understand that this disease is essentially the same in humans as it is in dogs, there really isn’t a need to keep on reading!


For those who may not yet be old enough to know first hand what it means to start getting old, we here at IndulgeYourPet figured we should take a moment and discuss exactly what intervertebral disc disease and shed some light on what you as an owner might be able to do to help your dog manage this painful condition.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!

Intervertebral Disc Disease defined

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a medical term used to describe the wearing away of the cushioning plates that interlock the sections of the dog’s spine together. And as anyone over the age of 40 can tell you, these pads can become worn through age, but also can be prone to going bad as a result of genetics and or due to some type of accident as well.

And while…

Technically, one could experience these issues anywhere along one’s spine, this disease typically affects the thoracolumbar and neck regions of ones back.  Unfortunately, this disease has a nasty habit of worsening over time as the compression on the spinal cord increases and the nucleus pulposus (that’s the center of the Vertebra) ceases to absorb any shock whatsoever.

Compression of…

Certain areas of the spine can lead to the further problem of herniation – so this is definitely not a “keep it till it gets better” type of condition.   Which is why, if you suspect your dog is suffering take him to the vet immediately because it is very likely to get a lot worse as time goes on.

Herniated disks…

Can occur when the shock absorbers between the plates finally disintegrate. This can lead to paralysis, pain sensation in the limbs and spine and swelling between the vertebral areas of the back.

Symptoms of Intervertebral Disc Disease

Symptoms or signs that your pup may be suffering from intervertebral disc disease may include:

  • Lameness or weakness of the back legs,
  • Crying out in pain,
  • A hunched back,
  • Muscle spasms,
  • And loss of appetite.

Affected Breeds

There are actually two types of IVDD in dogs. The first, which we have explored above, tends to affect only dogs with dwarfism. The second is rarer and can affect bigger dogs later on in life. This second variant is the degenerative kind and is the reason that not all of the dogs on this list are tiny!

This disease is particularly…

Prevalent in chondrodystrophic dogs (that’s dogs who suffer from genetic dwarfism, such as Dachshunds, to you and me). IVDD in dogs can be eased somewhat using anti-inflammatory medications, but ultimately this is a short-term solution for a long-term problem.

Treatment Options for IVDD in Dogs

Now typically your Veterinary surgeon will want to start off your dog’s treatment by first prescribing a range of anti-inflammatory drugs. These will help to isolate the swelling between the vertebra and allow your dog to begin to heal.

That said however…

For those dogs who are suffering chronic pain, extreme appetite loss or other, specifically acute symptoms may be in large amounts of pain. It is at these times that your vet will consider surgery.

It should be noted though…

That surgery is less likely to be an option if your pet is particularly old or has other underlying medical concerns. However, it is the most effective and complete way to treat this condition and to avoid the costs of life long medications.

Now for those…

Dogs that are not so far progressed in their disease yet, the vet may prescribe bed rest – that’s a full thirty days of no walks for your poor companion, but it is for the best. A combination of the anti-inflammatory medications and this rest should see the swelling return to manageable size and ought to mark an increase in your dog’s health.

Now if surgery is…

The recommended course of action, the exact surgical procedure that your vet will order will change depending on what variant of the condition your pet has and which area needs operated on.

Options may include…

One procedure that involves cutting along the length of the spine to gain access to the entire spinal column. A second operation will target specific areas and is thought to be less risky… although if your dog needs the former, you will have little choice in the matter.

Which brings us to…

Were we like to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians or medical professionals.  All we are is a bunch of folks who just happen to be passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them.

This is why…

If you feel like your pet may have intervertebral disc disease (or any other health issue for that matter) the first thing that you’re going to want to do is have him or her check out by a vet ASAP!


The truth is, an early diagnosis will often lead to the “best” medical outcome for your pet regardless of what is bothering him or her, but beyond that diagnosing a medical condition early could save you a bundle in medical costs!

Which is why…

We here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now will a pet insurance policy be right for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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