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.

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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Jerry

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Pomeranian

dog-age-icon

7 Years

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

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Head Tilt
Yelping
Holding Up Forelimb

Our little Jerry had body and head tilt soon after he gets up, holding up forelimb and yelping when getting picked up. Took him to various vet and put him through an MRI and found below diagnosis. 1. C3-4 : a. Mild left ventrolateral spinal cord compression by a protruding intervertebral disc, which partly extends into the left intervertebral foramen b. Dorsal spinal cord compression by a bulging ligamentum flavum. 2. C6-7: degenerative intervertebral disc disease with collapse of the disc space, but no significant spinal cord compression. 3. Dehydration of multiple other intervertebral discs. 4. Incidental findings: a. Small supracollicular fluid accumulation b. Mild ventricular enlargement and asymmetry with right larger than left. The vet has suggested to go through CSF analysis to rule out meningitis before his spinal surgery. All of a sudden before we make decision, Jerry was back to normal without treatment and almost symptom free (but still hold up forelims). We could not explain why. After he's back to normal for 2 weeks, we found him started eating his own poo and threw up one day. Put him on quarterly worming medication immediately and 1 day later after meal, he threw up again. Should we be concerned about if the vomiting is related to his disc rupture, or something else? Now how should we treat him for disc rupture now as we concern it may come back one day? Many thanks!

April 4, 2018

Jerry's Owner

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0 Recommendations

In these cases, symptoms wax and wane with severe symptoms one day and then ‘normal’ another day; however in the long term it is best to go through with the surgery so stabilise the spine and remove the source of compression on the spinal cord. If your Veterinarian wants to test some cerebrospinal fluid, you should do so. The vomiting may be caused by a variety of causes including pain, but I cannot say for certain it is related to the spinal issue. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

April 4, 2018

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dog-name-icon

Jack

dog-breed-icon

Cairn Terrier

dog-age-icon

11 Years

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

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Balance

11 yr old Cairn Terrier. 4 days ago, started falling going up steps. 3 days ago noticed that his front left leg was sliding out from under him as he moved and he was favouring it. 2 days ago it started affecting all legs. He would stand up and fall down. He walks gingerly and any leg might slide out and away at any time. No change in personality or eating habits. No circling behaviour or tenderness to touch anywhere on body. Took him to vet and blood work came back normal. They put him on pain meds as they also noticed reaction to being touched in shoulders. Physical exam was fine and said we could move to x rays and MRI if we wanted. Any thoughts?

Feb. 15, 2018

Jack's Owner

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0 Recommendations

At this point I agree with your Veterinarian that an x-ray at a minimum is required to determine if there is any spinal issues which may be causing this leg weakness; a physical examine can only tell so much. Continue with the current medication to see if there is any improvement, but you should have an x-ray done first (possibly myelography) to see if it sheds light on any specific cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Feb. 15, 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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