The intervertebral discs (the soft gel-like cushion located between vertebre) overtime can wear down and become prone to injury or rupture due to acute trauma or general breakdown. This rupture leads to damage of the spinal cord. The extent of the damage and nerve cells loss is determined by type of force, degree of force and the length of time that the force was applied to the spinal cord.
Relatively minor spinal cord damage can result in loss of coordination, or ataxia (off-balance walking), where moderate spinal cord damage can result in paralysis. Severe spinal cord damage can result in paralysis with loss of deep pain. Depending on severity of damage and length of time prognosis for recovery can vary.
The majority of dogs affected by IVDD include the Dachshund, Pekinese, Beagle, and other small to medium breed long dogs. In general these dogs, average onset of clinical signs is between 3–6 years of age, although x-rays can show the presence of disc calcification by 2 years of age. Large breed dogs make up the smaller portion of dogs affected, but usually will exhibit clinical signs between 5 and 12 years of age. The majority of disc disease is present in the thoracolumbar (back) region and account for 65% of all disc ruptures, while cervical (neck region) are not as common.
Diagnosis of IVDD involved physical evaluation and MRI to determine what disc or discs are involved. Following MRI, surgery will likely be recommended and is usually performed shortly after the MRI.
Treatment for IVDD involves a laminectomy (surgical removal of part of the ruptured disc) to decompress the spinal cord. Following surgery, physical therapy is recommended to improve outcome post op.
As stated prognosis for IVDD varies and should be discussed with your veterinarian during evaluation prior to surgery.
If you note that your pet exhibiting signs of IVDD, having difficulty walking or if he or she becomes acutely paralyzed, please seek medical attention immediately.