What is IVDD and how can you tell if your pet is suffering from the disease?

We see a lot of cases here at AVREC. A common one, IVDD. Unfamiliar with what it is? Allow AVREC Neurologist, Dr. Michele Provencher to explain:
WHAT IS IVDD? Intervertebral Disc Disease involves the spinal cord of your pet when the cushion between the bones of the back ruptures into the spinal canal, causing compression and bruising. The compression causes a disruption of signals from the brain going through the spinal cord to the legs, which is why leg function is often disrupted after a rupture.
WHAT EXACTLY IS A “DISC”? Dr. Provencher likes to use the example of a ‘Jelly Donut’ to explain, “In a normal jelly donut, there is a jelly filling and a soft outer cover (donut). A disc has a high water content in the center (jelly filling) and an outer fibrous covering (donut). When a disc ruptures, the “jelly filling” enters the spinal cord causing the compression.”
SYMPTOMS OF IVDD: In cases where surgery may not be required, your pet may show signs of weakness in their front or hind limbs, neck and/or back tightness and soreness, as well as arching of the back and/or muscle spasms. In cases that are considered to be an emergency and surgery would be necessary, your pet will likely not be able to walk on either all four limbs, or they will be dragging their hind legs behind them.
SURGERY VS. MEDICAL MANAGEMENT: Surgery isn’t always necessary, in less severe and less painful cases, medication and rest can be recommended and the dog may heal on their own. In cases where the dog cannot walk, is very painful and cannot feel “deep pain” – surgery is recommended in order to attempt to regain normal function of the limbs. Surgery can also be performed via the neck or back depending on where the rupture is.
WHAT IS “DEEP PAIN”? Dr. Provencher says, “A loss of deep pain indicates the most severe form of a spinal cord injury for disc dogs. It means their spinal cord is ‘functionally transected’ or no signals are passing through it.” When performed by a specialist to decipher between ‘reaction’ and ‘reflex’ – the legs or paws are pinched to determine if your pet has deep pain sensation. Reflexes are often mistaken for a dog being able to feel deep pain, and a misdiagnosis can be given. Having or not having deep pain sensation can be a factor in determining if surgery is needed, how soon surgery could be needed, or if medical management could be recommended instead.
CAN MY PET HAVE IVDD? Short answer, yes. Cats, too (although rare). While there are multiple types and levels of IVDD, smaller, longer spine dogs (Chondrodystrophic) are more susceptible. For example, dogs like Dachshunds, Bassett Hounds, Beagles and Corgis. Larger dogs can be susceptible to IVDD, although they’re more likely to suffer from a ‘Bulging Disc’ rather than a rupture.
Dr. Provencher is currently accepting new patients! Call us at 330-665-4996 for more information!