IVD disease

Intervertebral disc disease is a condition of the spine whereby the intervertebral discs become degenerate and extrude disc material into the spinal canal. The consequence of this is injury and compression of the spinal cord disrupting the transmission of information from the brain to other parts of the body. The most common location for intervertebral disc extrusion in the dog is in the thoracolumbar region resulting in hind limb paresis or paralysis. Disc extrusion in the cervical spine (neck) often results in a forelimb lameness or pain on manipulation of the neck. A severe cervical disc extrusion however can result in a quadra (tetra) plegic animal.

The early signs of a neurological problem include back pain, ataxia (poor limb coordination), loss of proprioception (spatial awareness) such as knuckling and ultimately loss of voluntary motor function and pain sensation. It is imperative that should these clinical signs be noted that animals are examined by a veterinarian immediately since the prognosis for a functional recovery decreases is dependent on the severity of the clinical signs.

At The Grove we accept referrals of dogs with clinical signs of intervertebral disc disease and usually this involves an emergency referral and surgery if indicated. Diagnosis is based on signalment, history and clinical signs with chondrodystrophoid breeds such as the Dachsund being most susceptible. Confirmation of diagnosis is achieved by imaging such as MRI, CT or radiographic myelography. Treatment involves spinal surgery to remove the offending disc material and relieve compression of the spinal cord.

Dogs often require prolonged hospitalisation (average of 10-14 days) following surgery since recovery from moderate to severe intervertebral disc disease can take several weeks to months. Occasionally slight weakness or neurological deficits persist, however individuals learn to compensate for these and usually lead a relatively normal life.