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Can a dog recover from IVDD without surgery?

If your dog has been diagnosed with IVDD you are bound to have questions. What is IVDD in dogs? Can a dog recover from IVDD without surgery? How much does IVDD surgery cost? Today our Berkeley vets answer these questions and more.

What is the intervertebral disc?

The intervertebral disc is a ring of fibrous tissue with a jelly-like inner substance that plays an important role as part of your dog's spine. Intervertebral discs give the spine flexibility and help to cushion the vertebrae whenever your dog is actively moving, running or jumping.

What is IVDD in dogs?

Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) may be described by your vet as a ruptured, slipped, bulging or herniated disk in your dog's back or neck. While this condition can happen in any breed of dog, it is most commonly seen in dogs with longer bodies such as dachshunds, Pekingese, shih tzus, basset hounds and beagles. 

What causes IVDD?

Intervertebral Disc Disease is a gradual, age-related, degenerative process that affects the spinal cord of the dog over a period of time. 

IVDD occurs when the shock absorbing discs between your dog's vertebrae gradually begin to harden until they are no longer able to cushion the vertebrae normally. The hardened discs often go on to bulge and compress the spinal cord, in many cases damaging the dog's nerve impulses such as those that control bladder and bowel control.

In other cases, a simple jump or poor landing can lead to one or more of the hardened discs bursting and pressing into the nerves of the dog's spinal cord causing pain, nerve damage or even paralysis.

Is surgery the only effective treatment for IVDD?

If your pup has IVDD but is still able to walk non-surgical treatments may be able to help your pet recover from IVDD.

On the other hand, if your dog has a severe case of IVDD and has lost their ability to walk, urgent emergency treatment is required, (which will likely include surgery). 

What are the available non-surgical treatments for IVDD?

Conservative treatment (IVDD management) is the non-surgical treatment option for dogs with IVDD. This treatment approach aims at relieving your pup's pain and discomfort, getting your pet standing and walking again, and restoring lost bladder and bowel control. Non-Surgical treatments for IVDD in dogs include strict crate rest, anti-inflammatory medications, dietary care (managing your dog's weight to relieve pressure on their back), and physical rehabilitation (physical therapy for dogs). 

Are there different IVDD surgery options for dogs?

In severe cases, when the dog has lost their ability to walk, the best and only treatment may be surgery. The goal of IVDD surgery is to remove the diseased intervertebral disk material in order to relieve the pressure on the dog's spinal cord. Relieving the pressure on your pet's spinal cord can help to restore normal blood flow, and prevent disc problems in the future.

There are a number of different surgeries which may be used alone or together to treat dogs with IVDD. The surgery recommended for your pup will largely depend upon the location of the diseased disc. IVDD surgeries include: hemilaminectomy, laminectomy, fenestration and ventral slot. For some dogs a vertebral stabilization (fusion) procedure may also be recommended, especially larger breeds.

What is the IVDD surgery success rate?

Surgery for dogs with IVDD is very successful in the majority of cases. Outcomes are most successful in dogs that have not lost their ability to walk.

In dogs that have had ongoing symptoms of IVDD, atrophy of the spinal cord can occur and lead to less successful outcomes.

Expect recovery from IVDD surgery to take about 6 - 8 weeks. While the spine is healing, your pet will require medications to help with pain management and swelling, and you will need to restrict your dog's activity to very low levels. Your vet may also recommend physical rehabilitation (physical therapy for dogs) to help your pup recover.

If IVDD surgery is not successful in restoring your dog's mobility, a doggie wheelchair can help your pup to enjoy a happy and active life while living with Intervertebral Disc Disease.

How much does IVDD surgery for dogs cost?

The cost of your dog's IVDD surgery will depend upon a number of factors including the severity of your pup's condition, their size, overall health, and even where you live geographically. For these reasons it's simply not possible to provide a reliable estimate for your dog's surgery within a blog post.

To get an accurate estimate for your dog's surgery speak to the staff at your veterinary clinic. Most animal hospitals are pleased to provide clients with an estimate along with a detailed breakdown of the costs associated with their pet's treatment. Your veterinary team will also be able to answer any questions you may have. 

Should I consider euthanasia for my dog with severe IVDD?

Every pet is unique and every case is different. Your vet will carefully and compassionately explain your dog's likelihood of recovery from IVDD so that you are able to make an informed decision regarding next steps.

If you are considering euthanasia for your dog following an IVDD diagnosis, speak to your vet openly and honestly. Your veterinary team have been trained to help you make the best decision for you and your dog and understand that it is a heartbreaking and difficult decision to make.

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.

If your dog is showing signs of IVDD emergency veterinary care is required. Contact our Berkeley vets right away to book an examination for your pup.

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