Intervertebral disc disease, or IDD, is a condition marked by bulging or herniated disks. Many small dog breeds, such as dachshunds, Shih Tzus and beagles are predisposed to IDD. This predisposition comes from a unique genetic form of dwarfism. The dwarfism causes a defect that doesn’t allow cartilage to mature, which can result in degenerative damage of disks. Oftentimes, IDD is painless, but if it does begin to cause your dog pain, seek a veterinarian to diagnose and treat the illness.
Thankfully, most dogs suffering from IDD don’t experience any effects. Everything is happening under the skin, and most of it isn’t painful. Although their discs are likely mineralizing and degrading, it’s unlikely they’ll show any evidence of pain or discomfort. In some cases, IDD will manifest itself painfully. Neck pain is commonly felt, as are back pain and nerve pain. Seek a veterinarian right away if you believe your dog is experiencing pain associated with IDD.
Pain is the only noticeable symptom associated with IDD, as all other effects are happening under the skin. If your dog is showing an unwillingness to do normal activities, such as jump or play, she may be experience pain. Other pain-related symptoms of IDD include weakness in rear legs, painful cries, anxious behavior, tense muscles, muscle spasms around the back or neck, reduced activity, reduced appetite, and loss of bladder and bowel control.
Only a veterinarian can diagnose IDD, as a complete neurological exam is needed to identify injuries and abnormal areas around the spine. Your veterinarian will begin with a physical exam. He will palpate your dog’s body, deducing where pain is coming from, as well as what areas may be most affected. Your veterinarian may also order X-rays or an MRI to determine if IDD is causing your dog’s discomfort.
Treatment is entirely dependent on the severity of the disease. Dogs with mild IDD can be treated with drugs such as anti-inflammatories and steroids. Some dogs get relief from back spasms when heat is applied and their skin is massaged. Moderate to severe IDD is going to be more challenging. Emergency surgery may be required, whereby your veterinarian will remove portions of your dog’s vertebrae. Unfortunately, some dogs do not fully recover after surgery.
Caryn Anderson combines extensive behind-the-scenes writing experience with her passion for all things food, fashion, garden and travel. Bitten by the travel bug at the age of 15 after a trip to Europe, Anderson fostered her love of style and fashion while living in New York City and earning her degree at New York University.