Have you heard the term IVDD?
Even though I am a huge dog lover and have owned animals my entire life, when I first heard the acronym IVDD, I was mildly perplexed. My heart skipped a beat, however, when I found out what it actually stood for and what the long-term effects would most likely be.
IVDD, or Intervertebral Disc Disease, is an ailment in which discs between the vertebrae rupture around the spinal cord. The bulging discs apply pressure on the nerves, causing pain, nerve damage, and a whole host of other problems. When a dog is diagnosed with IVDD, a lifetime of discomfort and adjustment most likely awaits.
IVDD is most common in chondrodystrophic breeds, dogs whose normal cartilage development has been altered via generations of breeding, for the purpose of a stout, shorter appearance. Examples include, dachshunds, beagles, bulldogs, corgis, pugs, basset hounds, and poodles. While chondrodystrophic breeds are prone to the disease, IVDD is not exclusive to these types of dogs and disc degeneration can present in dogs as young as 6 to 12 months.
Type I can affect dogs at any age, and is mostly seen in (but not limited to) chrondrodystrophic dogs. This type occurs when a dog’s spine experiences a sudden impact that causes the disc to shift out of place.
Type II is more gradual but the results are the same. A bulging disc places pressure on the spinal cord and its nerves. Type II IVDD affects older dogs between the ages of 8 and 15 and isn't targeted to chrondrodystrophic breeds.
For both types, lots of rest, anti-inflammatories, and even surgery are the common protocol and can aid in helping to manage, if not completely relieve, dog back pain; however, older dogs suffering from Type I are less likely to bounce back as quickly as younger dogs and are more likely to experience persistent back problems.
Many years ago when my former dachshunds, June and Henry, were diagnosed, our lives took a sharp turn into the world of IVDD; that experience unknowingly led me towards my life’s mission and I have been on the road of discovery and helping others towards recovery ever since!
At age 3, June had already experienced one or two back-related injuries but her restless and “wiggly” nature prolonged her recovery. During one particular recuperation period, June's complete physicality changed – she was hunched over, visibly tense, whined constantly and always seemed anxious. Even when the vet declared her ‘out of the woods’, June still seemed to struggle.
Although Henry was older, both he and his younger sister June were playful Dachshunds who shared my love for hiking, swimming and doing anything outdoors. Earlier in her life, June was as fearless as she was tireless, always eager to walk the extra mile or swim the extra lap. Henry, though older and less agile, was also ready to tackle life from tip to tail.
Having both fur babies diagnosed with IVDD was heart-wrenching. Seeing your pups in any amount of pain or discomfort is more than a pet parent can bear, especially when you are trying to understand the impact of the diagnosis in the first place.
Learning about IVDD and how to care for my pups was key in helping them to live long, comfortable lives. Managing their pain, while supporting their backs, allowed them to do what dogs do best – play and enjoy life! At the heart of IVDD is knowledge. If you educate yourself and LOVE your dog, you can both survive the course, as watching your little one live a healthy, pain-free life is the ultimate goal.
These days, there is a wealth of information for dog owners; type “IVDD” into any search engine and hundreds of sites pop up! Thankfully, navigating this dreaded disease is much easier than it was years ago with Henry and June. Aiding your pet’s road to healing after a diagnosis is of upmost importance but you can also find preventative and supportive measures, which will increase their mobility and wellness, long before a diagnosis comes along.
I recently had the pleasure of helping a dog named Rocket Hitchcock, a 7-year-old Schnauzer/Terrier mix. Rocket’s family was taken by surprise the same way I was with the initial diagnosis, so they too had to learn about IVDD and soon discovered that repeat flare ups are common. They shared with me their fear of knowing that without the proper attention and focus, they could be facing an invasive back surgery or even paralysis; they are now vigilant in their quest to help Rocket continue living a “super happy, pain-free life”!
Don’t let IVDD take you by surprise! Remember these tips:
Never ignore signs of pain. Symptoms of IVDD include:
Avoid overexertion or extreme exercise —especially if your pup is a smaller breed.
Keep your dog at a healthy weight—avoid obesity.
Your veterinarian will determine the best medical protocol for IVDD and your dog. If your dog is in severe back pain due to IVDD, medications may be prescribed.
Here's to a happy and pain-free life with your beloved fur baby.