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What is Disc Fenestration?

Disc fenestration in dogs is a form of spinal surgery in which the material in the center of the vertebral disc is removed. Disc fenestration is used in conjunction with laminectomy or hemilaminectomy surgery used to correct a herniated disc caused by intervertebral disk disease. Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD), is a progressive disease of the spinal column that can occur in two types. The type of IVDD treated with disc fenestration is Type I, as the condition was not caused by the gradual aging process of the dog. Surgical procedures of the spine are highly complex and require a specialist neurosurgeon to perform. 

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Disc Fenestration Procedure in Dogs

Disc fenestration in dogs is used in conjunction with a laminectomy spinal procedure in order to reduce the possibility of surrounding discs from herniating in the future. The surgeon first approaches the spine by making a surgical incision in the midline of the back using a specialized drill. A small window is then made in the bone of the affected vertebra, just above the disc. The herniated material inside the disc and underneath the spinal cord can then be removed using aspiration. Fenestration of the disc can then take place in front and behind the herniated disc. The same window creation technique is put in place as described before, but the window is made into the outer fibrous ring of tissue. The material inside the center of the vertebral disc is then removed. 

Efficacy of Disc Fenestration in Dogs

Disc fenestration in dogs is an effective surgery to reduce the possibility of surrounding discs from herniating. Used in conjunction with laminectomy spinal surgery, the possibility of the animal experiencing problems in the future are minimal. 

Disc Fenestration Recovery in Dogs

Following a disc fenestration, the canine will be hospitalized for roughly three to ten days and will be discharged once able to urinate with no ill effects. Once the dog is allowed home, the dog will not be allowed to engage in high levels of activity for about four to six weeks. A follow-up appointment will be needed 10 to 14 days after surgery to remove skin sutures, and again four to six weeks after the sutures are removed for assessment purposes. 

Cost of Disc Fenestration in Dogs

A disc fenestration in dogs can cost pet owners around $1,000 to $1,500 to have completed. The total cost of the procedure, including preoperative diagnostic imaging tools can raise that price to about $2,000. 

Dog Disc Fenestration Considerations

Disc fenestration in dogs is a very complicated surgery that, if done incorrectly, could lead to permanent spinal cord damage. Infection of the surgical site could result in a serious spinal cord infection, which can be avoided in proper medications are administered. Although most dogs will not have a reoccurrence of a disc herniation, it is a possibility and environmental factors should be controlled by the dog owner. 

Disc Fenestration Prevention in Dogs

Disc fenestration in dogs can be avoided, sometimes, by controlling environmental factors like diet and exercise. Weight control is advised both prior and after a disc fenestration surgery to prevent too much stress on the affected disc. Jumping should also be limited in those who are prone to disc complications to prevent injuries that could cause too much strain on the vertebral column. 

Disc Fenestration Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

7 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

muscles spasms, back leg weakness,
Urinary incontinence

Medication Used


My dog Manchan fell down some stairs 5 days ago. She developed wobbily back legs that progressed to near paralysis. She was started on prednisone, gabapentin and methocarbamol by the veterinarian. The medications were started 2 days ago. Since then she recent developed urinary incontinence and worsening difficulty with walking. At this point is surgery the only option? She has had 48 hours of medical management with no signs of improvement. Is there much hope of improvement without surgery? What are the chances with and without surgery?

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1823 Recommendations
The success rate of surgery would be dependent on the extent of the damaged and whether the cause is disk related or due to luxation/other cause; each case is individual and needs to be approached as such. You should discuss the options with your Veterinarian based on x-rays of Manchan’s spine and the level of deep pain sensation in the limbs. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Labrador Retriever
10 Years 3 Months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

moving very slowly
Decreased Appetite

Medication Used

Metoclopramide Hydrochloride

He has an acute injury from attempting to get through a small hole in a baby gate after being scared due to a storm (he is a former military dog and has ptsd during storms). He has not attempted this before. He cries out in pain with even slight movement and eating or drinking when he will eat or drink.

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1823 Recommendations

Cash is on a good pain relief regimen and any damage to the spine would need to be assess using x-rays; given the severity of the pain when moving it would be best to revisit your Veterinarian as crying out in pain is indicative a severe pain which should be addressed. Depending the findings of an x-ray and physical examination surgery may be required to stabilise the spine. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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