What is IVDD in Dogs? Answers About Surgery, Cost & Recovery

Intervertebral disc disease, known as IVDD, is a common neurological issue in dogs. It can cause a lot of distress for affected dogs and their owners. Typically, early treatment is necessary to address IVDD. In this blog, our Vancouver vets discuss IVDD surgery and its costs.

What is IVDD in dogs?

Intervertebral Disc disease (IVDD) is a spinal problem in dogs. It happens when a cushion-like structure between their spine bones, called the intervertebral disc, bulges or ruptures. This disc normally acts as a shock absorber for the spine. There are two types of IVDD: 

Hansen Type I is more commonly seen in chondrodystrophic breeds (dachshunds, corgis, beagles, etc.) and involves an acute rupture of the disc. While wear and tear calcifies and damages the disk over time, the rupture generally occurs suddenly as the result of a forceful impact (jumping, landing, etc.). A ruptured disk causes spinal cord compression and can result in pain, difficulty walking, paralysis, and/or the inability to urinate.

Hansen Type II is more commonly seen in large-breed dogs. Examples of dog breeds more vulnerable to Hansen Type II IVDD disorder are Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, or Dobermans. With Type II, the discs become hardened over a longer period of time, eventually bulging or rupturing to cause spinal cord compression. This type is slow onset, there likely won't be any particular moment or action that can be identified as having caused the damage.

IVDD can affect any part of the spine, but most ruptures occur in the midback (thoracolumbar) area (65%), followed by the next(cervical) region(18%).

What are the signs and symptoms of IVDD?

Common symptoms of IVDD include, but are not limited to:
  • Pain in the neck or back region
  • Unwillingness or inability to walk
  • Difficulty urinating and/or defecating
  • Shaking or trembling (usually in response to pain)
  • Knuckling on paws

How is IVDD diagnosed? What dog breeds are at risk?

If your veterinarian suspects IVDD may be ailing your dog, they will usually begin with a physical exam to check your pet's orthopedic and neurologic condition. Once IVDD is confirmed and its severity determined, your pet will either begin conservative treatment to try and prevent further damage without surgery, or they will be referred for x-ray imaging in preparation for surgical intervention.

Owners should be aware that these breeds of dog are predisposed to IVDD:

  • Dachshund (45-70% of IVDD cases)
  • Shih Tzu
  • Beagle
  • French bulldog
  • Pekingese
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Corgi
  • Basset hound
  • Poodle
  • Chihuahua
  • Cocker spaniel
  • Labrador retriever
  • German shepherd
  • Doberman pinscher

Can a dog recover from IVDD without surgery?

In the early stages of IVDD, the symptoms are not service. If your dog's IVDD is detected early, your vet might suggest non-surgical treatments like pain meds and limited activity instead of surgery. However, it's important to know that some dogs may eventually need surgery if their condition worsens. 

There are three components to non-invasive treatment for IVDD. They are strict crate rest, sedatives to promote relaxation and pain medication. 

Crate rest is mandatory for the IVDD to heal. If your dog's lifestyle does not include crate rest, or if they are otherwise very active and rarely slow down, your vet may prescribe medications to relax the dog and promote a more laid-back lifestyle. We understand the trepidation some dog owners may have with medicating their pets in this way, but it is completely necessary in some cases to prevent energetic dogs from hurting themselves. With IVDD, a dog who does not get enough crate rest is at a hugely elevated risk of doing further damage that requires emergency surgery or, in some cases, incurable paralysis.

Pain medications will be prescribed if your dog is in discomfort. Having a slipped disk hurts--it hurts a lot. If surgery is not the best path forward to correct the problem, pain medication will likely be required to keep the pain manageable while the injury heals.

What is IVDD surgery's success rate? 

IVDD is graded on a 1-5 scale based on how bad it is. Anywhere from 1-4 on the scale, your dog who receives surgery should be expected to make a full recovery 90% of the time. This number plummets to 50% or 60% when operating on grade 5 cases of IVDD in dogs, and even though that number presumes surgery occurred within 24 hours of grade 5 symptoms beginning, the number drops further when surgery is performed more than 24 hours after grade 5 symptoms start. IVDD gets worse over time, so while non-invasive options are preferred for dogs with a positive prognosis, it is also important not to wait too long before scheduling surgery if it is the right option for your pet. Your vet will suggest surgery based on your dog's situation. 

Patients who undergo surgery will have the bone overlying the spinal cord and the disc material compressing the spinal cord removed. This will be followed by several days of hospitalization, pain management, physical therapy, and possible bladder management. Owners will need to continue physical therapy and exercise restrictions for a specified amount of time after the pet is discharged from the hospital.

How much does IVDD surgery cost?

The cost of IVDD surgery in dogs can vary depending on several factors. These factors include the severity of the condition and any additional treatments or post-operative care required. It is best to consult with a veterinarian to get an accurate estimate for your specific situation. 

What is the prognosis for dogs with IVDD?

For most dogs, the prognosis is excellent! Unless it's an extremely severe case, most dogs treated for IVDD recover fully. This underscores the importance of annual regular checkups with your vet, as catching the condition early will reduce the costs and risks of surgery--or may even prevent the need for surgery altogether.

Treating IVDD is more effective when started early. If your dog is currently exhibiting any of the above-mentioned IVDD symptoms, or if you want advice for preventive measures you can take to protect at-risk breeds from developing IVDD, contact our vets at Mountain View Veterinary Hospital to make an appointment today.