IVDD- Back Pain and Difficulty With Stairs

Stella (8 year old Frenchie)

IVDD, or intervertebral disk disease, is a common cause of spinal pain and neurologic deficits in dogs. It is most common in breeds like Dachshund, French Bulldogs, and English Bulldogs, but it can happen to anyone.

With IVDD, the intervertebral disks (which are like little cushions between the vertebrae) may push on the spinal cord. In milder cases the patient may just be painful, but in more severe cases, the patient may actually be paralyzed due to the compression and injury to the spinal cord. It is a lot like having a rock in your shoe- if it is severe enough, surgery may be needed to remove the "rock" or the disk material, so that the spinal cord can decompress.

There are other neurologic problems that can look similar to IVDD, and so it is important to see your vet. In many cases, referral to a veterinary neurology specialist may be needed for advanced imaging of the spine (CT or MRI). Managing IVDD, especially if surgery is needed, can be very expensive. There are many sad days when we are asked to euthanize patients that need spinal surgery simply due to cost. This is another of the countless reasons that having good medical insurance for your pet is so incredibly important- it can be life-saving.

  • Signs of progressive neurologic disease to watch for include:
    • Worsening pain, an uncoordinated gait (crossing over of the back legs, knuckling, dragging the toenails, inability to stand or use the hind limbs, decreased sensation in the hind limbs.

    • Difficulty or inability to urinate is a common complication of spinal cord injury/compression; if a pet is unable to urinate, he/she should be evaluated by a veterinarian right away.

    • If you notice these signs, consultation with a veterinary neurology specialist may also be indicated.

  • Activity: Patients with spinal pain, neurologic deficits and concern for IVDD, should be evaluated by a veterinarian asap. In the meantime, it is advisable to exercise to “bed rest”. They may go outside for short leash walks for bathroom purposes only. Running, jumping (includes on/off furniture and in/out of vehicles), rough play and stairs should be avoided.

Luckily, Stella does not appear to be a surgical candidate at this time (she can still walk), and regardless, Stella's owner is very committed to her.