Canine intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a common orthopedic problem seen by veterinarians. The discs are thick plate- or disc-like cushions which lie between the bony vertebrae in the spine. They are composed of a fibrous outer layer called the annulus fibrosus and a pulpy, gelatinous center called the nucleus pulposus. They help to cushion the spine as your dog walks, trots, runs, twists, and jumps. 

IVDD is a condition where the cushioning discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column either bulge or burst (herniate) into the spinal cord space. These discs then press on the nerves running through the spinal cord causing pain, nerve damage, and even paralysis.

time is of the essense!

It is important that valuable time is not lost getting the facts about IVDD, searching out a qualified veterinarian that can make a diagnosis, and finding a center that can provide imaging of the spine if that is needed.

Time is of the essence especially if your dog's legs are paralyzed and may have lost deep pain sensation (DPS). Precious hours can be lost with a vet that gets DPS wrong. Find a neuro vet or emergency clinic that has vet specialists. Find out from a specialist what you are dealing with and then you can make the best decision for your dog.

As damage to the spinal cord increases, progression of symptoms of IVDD occurs in a predictable sequence: 

  1. Pain caused by the tearing disc & inflammation in the spinal cord 
  2. Wobbly walking, legs cross 
  3. Nails scuffing on the floor 
  4. Paws knuckling 
  5. Legs do not work at all (paralysis, dog is down) - this is an emergency. Find that vet specialist! (see Alberta Clinics tab) 
  6. Bladder control is lost 
  7. Tail wagging is lost 
  8. Loss of deep pain sensation, the last neuro function can only be correctly identified by a specialist. A general vet is not qualified to tell if a dog is a candidate for surgery but is qualified to refer you to a specialist. Only a board certified ortho or neuro surgeon can advise you on surgery. 

The last best chance for a good surgical outcome is within a window of 12-24 hours from losing the last of neuro functions which is deep pain sensation (DPS). Even after that window of time, there can still be a good outcome but each hour that passes decreases that chance. 

Neither surgery nor conservative treatment (medications and crate rest) are "guaranteed" to work. If surgery is an option, know that there is a limited window of time to make this decision.

IVDD is not a death sentence! Be sure you know the two treatments - conservative and surgery 

My dog is showing symptoms of ivdd. what do I do?

Always crate your dog immediately when you first suspect a back problem (shivering/trembling, yelping, reluctant to move, arched back, head held high or low, wobbly walk) and get him to a vet asap. Crating will help keep the dog from further injuring the spinal cord that could potentially lead to paralysis and loss of bladder control. Learn more here - http://www.dodgerslist.com/faq.htm

If your dog is showing symptoms of IVDD, it needs to be seen by a vet for a diagnosis and the right medications just as soon as possible. The sooner medications are on board the sooner healing can get underway, pain be brought under control and deterioration of neuro functions be avoided.

Don't wait, minutes & hours matter... and if you lack confidence in your vet or seem to be getting nowhere, don't hesitate to ask for a second opinion or better yet a referral to a specialist (neuro or ortho) as these specialists see many cases of back problems daily.

Where can i find a specialist who knows about IVDD?

In Edmonton:

Guardian Veterinary Centre
5620-99 Street, Edmonton, AB, T6E 1V2
Open 24 hours

In Red Deer:

Cedarwood Veterinary Hospital
7644 Gaetz Ave.
Red Deer, AB T4P 2A8

In Calgary:

Information coming soon!

More information about ivdd

Acorn Veterinary Hospital

Azzore Veterinary Specialists 

Dallas Veterinary Surgical Center - The Facts About Backs 

Dodgerslist - support and education for dogs with intervertebral disc disease

IVDD is not a death sentence! Read about the quality of life a dog with IVDD can have...

Swelling in the spinal cord 

Don't lose hope!