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IVDD Surgery for Dogs - What Pet Parents Should Know

IVDD Surgery for Dogs - What Pet Parents Should Know

While not always required, surgery is often the best treatment option for dogs suffering from Intervertebral Disc Disease. Our Long Island specialist vets share treatment options for IVDD in dogs. 

What is an intervertebral disc?

The intervertebral discs are found between the vertebrae and are comprised of a gelatinous inner substance surrounded by a ring of fibrous tissue. Intervertebral discs give the spine flexibility and help to cushion the load to the spine whenever your dog is doing movements such as running or jumping.

What is IVDD?

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

What causes IVDD in dogs?

This disease is an age-related, gradual degenerative process. It affects a dog's spinal cord over a period of time and is often undetected until the condition is advanced. 

The shock-absorbing discs between your dog's vertebrae gradually begin to harden and will eventually be unable to properly cushion the vertebrae. The hardened discs typically go on to cause compressing and bulging of the spinal cord, which can impact a dog's mobility and damage their nerve impulses, such as those that control the bowel and bladder.

In some cases, a poor landing or simple jump can cause one or more of the hardened discs to burst and press into the nerves of the dog's spinal cord, causing potential nerve damage, pain, or even paralysis. 

Can a dog recover from IVDD without surgery?

If your dog has been diagnosed with IVDD but is still able to walk, non-surgical treatments may be able to help him recover. However, if the IVDD is severe and your dog has lost the ability to walk, urgent emergency treatment is required. 

Non-surgical treatment for IVDD is also called conservative management or treatment. Non-surgical treatment aims to help relieve pain and discomfort and improve mobility and bladder/bowel control. Non-surgical treatments for IVDD dogs include:

  • Strict Crate-Rest - Strict rest will be essential to relieving your dog's IVDD symptoms without surgery. This will require patience, as your dog will need to be strictly confined to a small room or crate for at least four weeks to give his body enough time to attempt to mend the damage.  
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications - Anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce pain and swelling. These medications are used in conjunction with crate-rest and restricted activity. 
  • Dietary Care - Your vet will carefully calculate the exact number of calories your pet needs in order to manage his weight and help avoid putting adding pressure on his spine.
  • Physical Rehabilitation (Physical Therapy) - Your dog's current condition will be assessed by a rehabilitation practitioner, who will then recommend a treatment plan that includes a combination of professional and at-home treatments. Rehabilitation can work wonders for pets suffering from mild to moderate cases of IVDD, along with those recovering from surgery.

Surgical Treatment of IVDD

Surgery is considered the best, and in some cases the only, treatment option for severe cases of IVDD in dogs. IVDD surgery is designed to remove the diseased intervertebral disc material in order to relieve pressure on your dog's spinal cord, restore normal blood flow and mobility, reduce pain and prevent disc problems in the future. To achieve this goal, a combination of surgeries may be required. 

Which surgeries are used to treat your dog's IVDD will largely depend on the location of the diseased disc. There are a number of different IVDD surgeries, including fenestration, hemilaminectomy, laminectomy, and ventral slot. In some cases, a vertebral stabilization (fusion) procedure may also be recommended, especially for large breed dogs. How much the surgery will cost depends on many factors, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000 for IVDD surgery for your dog.

IVDD Surgery Success Rates

Surgery is usually very successful and outcomes are most positive in dogs that have not completely lost their ability to walk. In dogs with severe IVDD that has been left untreated for a long period of time, atrophy of the spinal cord can occur and lead to less successful outcomes. 

If IVDD surgery is not successful in returning your pet's normal mobility, a dog wheelchair may help your pooch to enjoy an active and happy life while living with intervertebral disc disease. To recover from IVDD surgery, your dog will need to restrict activity for 6 to 8 weeks, in addition to taking appropriate medications to help with swelling and pain management. Your vet may also recommend physical therapy or physical rehabilitation to aid in recovery. 

Should I consider euthanasia for my dog with severe IVDD?

As a pet parent of a dog diagnosed with severe IVDD, you are likely facing some very difficult questions regarding treatment for your beloved pet. Your vet will explain available treatment options and the likely outcome for each. Whether you opt for surgical or non-surgical treatment, caring for a dog recovering from IVDD can be costly and time-consuming. 

Each pet is different and your dog's prognosis will depend on a number of factors, including his age, the location and severity of the spinal injury, and the length of time between symptoms appearing and when the condition is treated. Your vet will carefully and compassionately explain your dog's likelihood of recovery so you can make an informed decision about treatment. If you are considering euthanasia for your dog following an IVDD diagnosis, speak to your vet openly and honestly. They have been 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.

Does your dog need IVDD surgery? Our veterinarian surgeons at Atlantic Coast New York Veterinary Specialists on Long Island have extensive experience in treating dogs with Intervertebral Disc Disease. Request a referral from your primary care vet to see our team of specialist vets. 

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