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IVDD Surgery in Dogs

Although surgery is not always necessary to treat IVDD, for dogs experiencing difficulty walking due to Intervertebral Disc Disease, surgery is often the best treatment option. IVDD surgeries aim to restore mobility, reduce pain and prevent more disc problems. Here's more from our Thousand Oaks vets on treatment options and surgery for IVDD in dogs. 

What is an Intervertebral Disc?

The intervertebral disc, which gives your dog's spine flexibility and cushions the load during movements like running or jumping, is a gelatinous inner substance surrounded by a ring of fibrous tissue.

What is IVDD in dogs?

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) can also be described as a ruptured, slipped, bulging, or herniated disk that can be situated in your dog's neck or back. This condition is often seen in certain breeds of dogs like beagles, dachshunds, Pekingese, Shih Tzus, and basset hounds, but may also occur in dogs of any size or breed. 

What causes IVDD in dogs?

Intervertebral Disc Disease is a gradual degenerative condition related to aging. The process affects the spinal cord of the dog over a period of time, often undetected.

IVDD occurs when the shock-absorbing discs between your dog's vertebrae harden and no longer provide adequate cushioning. The hardened discs usually bulge and compress the spinal cord, interfering with or damaging the dog's nerve impulses, such as those that control bladder and bowel function. In other cases, a simple movement, such as a jump or a poor landing, can cause one or more of the hardened discs to rupture and press into the nerves of the dog's spinal cord, resulting in pain, nerve damage, or even paralysis.

Is IVDD in dogs am emergency?

IVDD in dogs can be considered an emergency, especially if symptoms such as severe pain, paralysis, or loss of bladder control are present. It is important to seek immediate veterinary care to prevent further damage and improve the chances of successful treatment. 

Can a dog recover from IVDD without surgery?

If your dog has been diagnosed with IVDD but can still walk, non-surgical treatments may be able to help him recover. However, if your dog has a severe case of IVDD and has lost the ability to walk, immediate veterinary care is required.

Non-surgical treatment for IVDD is also called conservative treatment or management, and the goals of these treatment options are to help relieve pain and discomfort, to get your dog standing and walking again, and to help restore lost bladder and bowel control. Non-Surgical treatments for IVDD in dogs include:

  • Strict Rest - If trying to relieve your dog's IVDD symptoms without surgery, being consistent about your dog's 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 at least 4 weeks in order to give their body sufficient time to try and mend the damage.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications - Non-surgical treatment of IVDD in dogs is likely to include steroid and anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce pain and swelling. These medications are used along with restricted activity and crate-rest.
  • 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.
  • Physical Rehabilitation (Physical Therapy) - A rehabilitation practitioner will assess your pet's condition and recommend a treatment plan which will include a combination of at-home treatments and professional treatment. Rehab can work wonders for pets suffering from mild to moderate cases of IVDD, as well as those recovering from surgery.

Surgery for IVDD in Dogs

Surgery is considered the best and in some cases the only treatment for severe cases of IVDD in dogs. The aim of IVDD surgery is to remove the diseased intervertebral disc 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 treat severe IVDD in dogs, a combination of surgeries may be performed.

The surgeries used to treat your dog's IVDD will be largely determined by the location of the diseased disc. There are several IVDD surgeries, including hemilaminectomy, laminectomy, fenestration, and ventral slot. In some cases, a vertebral stabilization (fusion) procedure may be recommended, especially for large breed dogs.

Cost of IVDD Surgery for Dogs

The cost for IVDD surgery in dogs can vary depending on the severity of the condition, the location of the veterinary clinic, and any additional treatments or medications required. It is recommended to consult with a veterinarian for an accurate estimate based on your dog's specific needs.

IVDD Surgery Success Rate

Typically, IVDD surgery is very successful in the majority of cases. Outcomes are most successful in dogs that have not lost their ability to walk, but dogs that have had ongoing symptoms of IVDD can have atrophy of the spinal cord, which could lead to less successful outcomes.

If IVDD surgery does not restore your pet's mobility, a dog wheelchair can help your pup live a happy and active life despite having intervertebral disc disease. Recovery from IVDD surgery necessitates 6–8 weeks of restricted activity and the use of appropriate pain and swelling medications. Your veterinarian may also recommend physical rehabilitation (dog physical therapy) to aid in your pet's recovery.

Should I consider euthanasia for my dog with severe IVDD?

If your dog has been diagnosed with severe IVDD, you will most likely be faced with some difficult decisions about how to treat your beloved pet. Your veterinarian will carefully explain the available treatment options and their likely outcomes. Caring for a dog recovering from IVDD can be time-consuming and costly, whether you choose surgical or non-surgical treatment.

Each pet is unique. Your dog's prognosis will be determined by a variety of factors, including age, the severity of the spinal injury, the location of the diseased discs on the spine, and the time between symptoms and treatment. Your veterinarian will carefully and compassionately explain your dog's chances of recovery, allowing you to make an informed treatment decision that is in your and your dog's best interests. If you are thinking about euthanasia for your dog after an IVDD diagnosis, talk to your veterinarian openly and honestly; they are experienced and 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.

Has your dog lost the ability to move around comfortably? Contact VSEC today so we can assess your dog's condition and determine if surgery is necessary.

New Patients Welcome

VSEC Thousand Oaks is accepting new patients! Our board-certified specialists and experienced emergency veterinarians are passionate about restoring good health to animal companions.

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