Intervertebral Disc Disease in Dogs

Intervertebral Disc Disease in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost
11 Veterinary Answers

Prepare for unexpected vet bills

Intervertebral Disc Disease in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Prepare for unexpected vet bills

What is Intervertebral Disc Disease?

An intervertebral disc is essentially a cushion in between the bones of the spine. These discs, under the influence of certain forces, can become swollen or even rupture over time, ultimately causing damage to the spinal cord. The rupture can be either progressive, in which case it is more likely to be detected in time for treatment, or immediate, which may cause some added complications. This disease is most prevalent in chondrodystrophoid breeds (breeds with dwarfism in the genes) of dogs, such as the Dachshund, Pekinese, Beagle, and Lhasa Apso breeds.

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is the rupture of discs that serve as cushions between the vertebrae of the spine. It is common in breeds with dwarfism. Possible symptoms include pain, loss of limb function and loss of feeling. Treatment options include medications and two types of surgery. Depending on the damage to the spine, there is a risk of the dog being paralyzed, though dogs with minimal damage have a good prognosis.

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Intervertebral Disc Disease Average Cost

From 7 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $12,000

Average Cost

$9,000

Symptoms of Intervertebral Disc Disease in Dogs

Because this disease causes intervertebral disc rupture that damages the spinal cord, varying degrees of pain occur. Some possible symptoms your dog may display include:

  • Pain in the back or neck, typically causing refusal to walk or look around
  • Loss of hind limb function
  • Loss of ability to urinate
  • Loss of experiencing pain (in severe cases)
  • Hesitant to go up or down stairs
  • Neck muscles are tense, may spasm
  • Reluctance to jump
  • Tense abdomen
  • Restlessness
  • Vocalization of pain
Types

Intervertebral disc disease can be categorized by the location of the spinal cord where the damage occurs. This grouping classification is called neurolocalization, and assists in diagnosis and treatment.

  • Location-based types - Large regions of the spine are used to classify disc ruptures. These are broken down into the cervical vertebral 1-5, cervical vertebrae 6 through thoracic vertebrae 2, thoracic vertebrae 3 through lumbar vertebrae 3, and lumbar vertebrae 4 through the sacrum.
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Causes of Intervertebral Disc Disease in Dogs

Intervertebral disc disease can be caused by one of two types of damage to the spinal cord: compression and concussion.

  • Compression is usually the result of gradual degeneration, causing the central gel of the disc to lose its fluid and become more susceptible to general wear and tear. When this occurs, normal life may cause the central portion of the disc to rupture into or through the outer layer, putting pressure on the nerves and spinal cord. This is often referred to as a slipped disc.
  • Concussion, alternatively, is when the disc is ruptured in one immediate motion, sometimes resulting in paralysis. This is not typically caused by any one event, rather a combination of everyday activity and deterioration of the disc.
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Diagnosis of Intervertebral Disc Disease in Dogs

The method of diagnosis will depend largely on your dog’s symptoms and breed. If your dog is predisposed to intervertebral disc disease, such as chondrodystrophoid breeds, there is a high chance that intervertebral disc disease is the problem. Depending on symptoms, some tests may be completed to rule out other spinal problems. Possible diagnostic tests include:

  • Physical exam
  • Neurologic exam
  • Complete blood work
  • Serum chemistry
  • Urinanalysis
  • X-rays
  • Myelogram (spinal x-ray using a dye to highlight compression) and anesthesia
  • MRI
  • CT Scan
  • Spinal tap
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Treatment of Intervertebral Disc Disease in Dogs

The course of treatment that the doctor ends up suggesting will depend directly on the severity of the damage directly to the spinal cord. If this is the first occurrence and the spinal cord has minimal damage, conservative treatment such as cage rest, confinement, and pain medications may be an option. For any greater damage, the following alternative treatment options exist:

  • Depending on the severity of damage, medications may be used. Some common medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroid drugs.
  • If the case is that the damage is unquestionably severe, and medication driven treatment is ineffective, surgery may be necessary. Neurosurgery is an option, and should be done by an outside expert in the field. Expect to have another round of x-rays as part of the preparation for surgery. There are two types of operational surgery that may be done: fenestration and decompressive surgery. Which surgery is best for your pet will be determined by the diagnostic tests and x-ray results.

With many dogs who have intervertebral disc disease, they will likely experience a ruptured disc more than once in their lifetime. If the same disc continues to rupture or cause problems, surgery will likely be used to try to address the problem.

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Recovery of Intervertebral Disc Disease in Dogs

Recovery and management depends largely on the course of treatment. After surgery, Most pets are discharged within 3-7 days. Possible post-surgery restrictions include bladder expression 3-4 times a day, rehabilitation and bed rest for at least four weeks. Complications may include seizures, infection of the incision, continued trouble walking, additional herniated discs later in life. Depending on the severity and complexity of the spinal damage, the biggest risk is the loss of the ability to walk. For most cases where damage isn’t excessively severe, though, the dog’s chance of walking again is high.

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Cost of Intervertebral Disc Disease in Dogs

The cost will rise or fall based on which tests the doctor is forced to complete in order to successfully diagnose the reason of your dogs symptoms. The total cost for diagnostic tests, which should include a physical exam, neurological exam, urinalysis, blood work, x-rays, serum chemistry, myelogram, MRI, CT Scan and a spinal tap may cost around upwards of $4,800 Treatment may include medications, or surgery, coming in around $9,000 total. Your actual cost will vary depending on diagnosis and treatment courses, as well as pharmacy, veterinarian, and specialty specifications and requirements. The total estimated cost can reach upwards of $15,500, with additional monthly costs ranging from $150 to $300 for medication.

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Intervertebral Disc Disease Average Cost

From 7 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $12,000

Average Cost

$9,000

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Intervertebral Disc Disease Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Loki

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Chihuahua

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9 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

I took Loki my chihuahua for a routine teeth cleaning and to get get her nails cut, she had no issues at alll perfectly healthy. When I picked her up from the vet I noticed that she was limping, she also had a little bit of blood on her paw, I thought she might be limping because she got cut while getting her nails cut or something. A few days went by and she was still limping, she wasn’t using her left back leg at all, only when going outside to pee. I took her back to the vet and they told me she had a patella luxation? I had no idea what that was or what might have caused it. They gave me pain meds for Loki and sent her home. It’s been almost a month now, I took her in for X-rays and they stated that she now has degenerative intervertebral disc disease. Is this something that would cause my dog not to use her leg. I am very confused about this situation and I don’t know if I need to take her to a different vet for a second opinion. Please advise. Thank you

Sept. 17, 2018

Loki's Owner

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yogi

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Chiweenie

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Five Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Yelp

My 5 year old dog - chiweenie had back pain suddlenly last year. the vet injeted his steroids and prescribed prednisone and gabapentin(she said it could be a disc hernia) he got better and was great for 4 months until the same thing happened again. he got another injection and meds and recover fully but 6 months later (July2018) he showed same symptoms and this time we took him for an full spine MRI. his diagnostics is a "large mieline to left sided chronic disc herniation at L3-L4". The neurologist sugested surgery impling that the hernia can rupture at anytime. my dog has been resting a lot and shows pain only during the morning and the rest of the day he behaves 100% healthy and walks around fine. some days he keeps his head down as he walks and ramdonly he will cry/scream. He is still taking prednisone and gabapentin.he seems much better but i am afraid the disc will rupture and also i am afraid of the risc of the surgery and the possibility of adhesions developing, losing his movement. i want to make sure he will be fine if he gets surgery. i am taking him to another neurologist for a second opinion . but i need more advice

Aug. 10, 2018

yogi's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

If a board certified neurologist thinks that Yogi needs surgery, and he is still that painful, that is probably a good idea. A second opinion is never a bad idea, and they can give you an idea as to expected outcome and need for surgery. I hope that all goes well for him.

Aug. 10, 2018

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Intervertebral Disc Disease Average Cost

From 7 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $12,000

Average Cost

$9,000

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