What is IVDD in Dogs?

If you’re a dog parent, you’ve likely found yourself asking this question at least once: What is IVDD in Dogs? Well, consider this your one-stop guide to everything you need to know about Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD). From understanding the nature of the disease to recognizing its signs, and finding ways to manage it effectively – we’re here to shed light on this often misunderstood condition. Let’s dive in.

What is IVDD in Dogs?

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a condition that affects the spinal cord of dogs, causing discomfort, pain, and sometimes severe health complications. It’s the result of a disc in the spine bulging or bursting (herniating) into the spinal cord, which can lead to nerve damage, pain, and even paralysis.

The Spinal Basics: Understanding The Framework

Before delving deeper into IVDD, let’s understand the structure that’s primarily involved – the spine. Consisting of a series of small bones known as vertebrae, it’s an essential component of the body’s skeletal system. Between each vertebra is a disc, a cushion-like structure filled with a gelatinous substance, acting as a shock absorber during movement. When these discs are subjected to undue stress or injury, the stage is set for IVDD.

The IVDD Culprits: Types of Intervertebral Disc Disease

There are two main types of IVDD in dogs, Type I and Type II. Type I is generally more severe and commonly occurs in smaller, chondrodystrophic breeds (those with short legs and long bodies), like Dachshunds and Basset Hounds. It is often sudden in onset.

In contrast, Type II IVDD usually develops gradually and is more common in larger, non-chondrodystrophic breeds such as German Shepherds and Labradors. It often results from a prolonged, degenerative process.

Recognizing the Signs: IVDD Symptoms in Dogs

While it might sound like a mouthful, Intervertebral Disc Disease is a condition that can creep up on your pet before you even realize what’s happening. It’s critical to recognize the symptoms early to prevent further harm to your furry friend.

Pain and Discomfort

One of the first signs of IVDD is a change in your dog’s behaviour due to discomfort or pain. You might notice them being more reluctant to play, climb stairs, or even do simple activities like eating and drinking. A sudden yelp or cry when picked up or touched might also indicate pain.

Changes in Mobility and Coordination

As the disease progresses, your dog may show signs of wobbliness in their walk, difficulty in standing up, or even a reluctance to move at all. These changes are caused by nerve damage resulting from the herniated disc.

Loss of Appetite and Altered Bathroom Habits

Dogs with IVDD often lose their appetite and may have difficulties with urination or defecation. These signs are indicative of the disease’s severity, and immediate veterinary attention is warranted.

Diagnosing IVDD in Dogs: The Vet’s Perspective

Understanding IVDD in Dogs isn’t just about knowing what it is or how it presents itself. It’s also about the diagnostic process. What goes on when you take your pet to the vet?

Clinical Examination

The diagnostic journey for IVDD begins with a thorough physical and neurological examination by the veterinarian. They’ll be on the lookout for signs of pain, reduced mobility, and altered reflexes. The dog’s breed, age, and symptoms will guide the vet in suspecting IVDD.

Radiography (X-Rays) and Advanced Imaging

Radiography can be useful for visualizing the general health of the spine and detecting abnormalities. However, to diagnose IVDD with certainty, more advanced imaging techniques like MRI or CT scans are required. These provide detailed images of the discs and can pinpoint the exact location of the herniation.

Treatment Options for IVDD in Dogs

Once diagnosed with IVDD, a range of treatment options can be considered, depending on the disease’s severity. The primary goal is to alleviate pain and improve the dog’s quality of life.

Conservative Management

In less severe cases, IVDD can be managed conservatively with rest, pain management, and physiotherapy. Medications may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce pain and swelling.

Surgical Intervention

In more severe cases or when conservative management doesn’t yield improvement, surgery might be the best option. The surgery aims to remove the herniated disc material that’s compressing the spinal cord.

Living with IVDD: Tips for Managing Your Dog’s Condition

Living with IVDD in Dogs can be challenging, but with the right approach and dedication, you can ensure your pet lives a comfortable, happy life.

Providing a Comfortable Environment

Ensure your pet’s living space is comfortable and easily accessible. A firm, orthopedic bed can help, and food and water bowls should be within easy reach.

Regular Vet Check-ups

Regular visits to the vet are crucial for monitoring your pet’s condition. The vet can adjust treatment plans and provide further recommendations based on the dog’s progress.

Weight Management

Maintaining a healthy weight is essential as excess weight can put additional strain on the spine. Your vet can provide guidance on a suitable diet and exercise routine.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What breeds are most prone to IVDD?

Typically, breeds with long backs and short legs are more prone to IVDD. These include Dachshunds, Beagles, and Basset Hounds, among others. However, any breed can potentially be affected.

2. Can a dog recover from IVDD without surgery?

Yes, in mild cases, dogs can recover with conservative treatment involving rest, medication, and physiotherapy. However, severe cases usually require surgical intervention.

3. What is the prognosis for a dog with IVDD?

The prognosis for a dog with IVDD varies greatly depending on the severity of the disease, the dog’s overall health, and the treatment provided. With proper treatment and care, many dogs can live comfortably with the condition.

4. How can I prevent my dog from getting IVDD?

While you can’t completely prevent IVDD, you can reduce the risk by maintaining your dog’s healthy weight, providing a balanced diet, and avoiding activities that put undue strain on the spine.

5. Can IVDD be a recurring condition in dogs?

Yes, IVDD can recur in dogs. If one disc has herniated, there’s a chance that others may do so as well in the future. Regular vet check-ups are crucial to monitor your dog’s condition and act quickly if symptoms reappear.

6. Is IVDD in dogs painful?

Yes, IVDD can be painful for dogs as it involves the compression of nerves in the spinal cord. Pain levels can range from mild discomfort to severe pain, depending on the extent of the disease.


Unravelling the complexity of IVDD in Dogs is no small task, but with the right knowledge and a proactive approach, it’s a condition that can be managed effectively. Remember, early detection is key, and regular check-ups with your vet can make a world of difference in your furry friend’s quality of life. Whether you’re a new pet parent or an experienced dog lover, understanding IVDD can help you ensure that your pet lives a long, healthy, and happy life.

Dr. Sara Lam

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