Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) in Dogs: Navigating the Spinal Disorder That Affects Canine Mobility

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a prevalent and often debilitating spinal disorder that affects dogs, particularly those with long backs like Dachshunds, Beagles, and Corgis. IVDD occurs when the discs between the vertebrae of the spine degenerate or herniate, leading to compression of the spinal cord and nerves. This condition can cause varying degrees of pain, loss of mobility, and even paralysis in affected dogs. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and available treatment options for IVDD is crucial for dog owners and veterinarians to provide the best care and support for their canine companions. In this in-depth article, we explore Intervertebral Disc Disease in relation to dogs, shedding light on its significance and the measures necessary to manage this challenging spinal condition.

What Causes Intervertebral Disc Disease?

The primary cause of Intervertebral Disc Disease in dogs is the degeneration or herniation of the intervertebral discs. Several factors may contribute to this condition:

  1. Breed Predisposition: Certain breeds, especially those with long backs and short legs, are more susceptible to IVDD due to genetic factors.
  2. Age: IVDD is more common in older dogs, but it can occur at any age.
  3. Obesity: Excess body weight can place additional stress on the spine and increase the risk of disc degeneration.
  4. Trauma: A sudden and severe impact or trauma to the spine can trigger disc herniation.

Symptoms of IVDD in Dogs

The symptoms of Intervertebral Disc Disease in dogs can vary depending on the location and severity of the affected disc. Common signs include:

  1. Pain: Dogs with IVDD may experience back or neck pain, which can be mild to severe.
  2. Loss of Mobility: Weakness or paralysis in the legs is a hallmark of advanced IVDD cases.
  3. Difficulty Walking: Dogs may have an unsteady gait or struggle to walk or jump.
  4. Reluctance to Move: Affected dogs may be reluctant to move or show signs of discomfort when picked up.
  5. Incontinence: In severe cases, dogs may lose control of their bladder or bowels.

Diagnosing IVDD

Diagnosing Intervertebral Disc Disease typically involves a combination of physical examination, imaging, and diagnostic tests. The following steps are often involved:

  1. Physical Examination: The veterinarian will perform a thorough neurological and orthopedic examination to assess the dog’s mobility and reflexes.
  2. Imaging: X-rays or advanced imaging techniques like MRI or CT scans may be used to visualize the spine and identify disc abnormalities.
  3. Myelogram: In some cases, a myelogram, which involves injecting contrast dye into the spinal fluid, may be used to further assess spinal cord compression.

Treatment and Management Options

The treatment and management of IVDD depend on the severity and location of the affected disc. Common approaches include:

  1. Conservative Management: Mild cases of IVDD may be managed with strict rest, pain medications, and anti-inflammatory drugs.
  2. Surgery: Severe cases of IVDD with significant spinal cord compression may require surgical intervention to decompress the affected area.
  3. Physical Therapy: Rehabilitation and physical therapy can help improve mobility and strengthen the supporting muscles.
  4. Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for reducing stress on the spine and preventing further degeneration.

Preventing IVDD in Dogs

While IVDD cannot always be prevented, certain measures can reduce the risk, especially for susceptible breeds:

  1. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Prevent obesity through a balanced diet and regular exercise.
  2. Avoid Jumping: Discourage excessive jumping, especially for breeds prone to IVDD.
  3. Provide Support: Use ramps or stairs to help dogs access elevated areas without straining their backs.


Intervertebral Disc Disease is a challenging spinal condition that can significantly impact the mobility and well-being of dogs. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and available treatment options for IVDD is vital for providing the best care and support for our beloved canine companions. Early detection, prompt veterinary attention, and appropriate management strategies can greatly improve the outcomes and quality of life for dogs affected by this condition. Responsible pet ownership, awareness of breed predisposition, and preventative measures can contribute to the optimal spinal health and happiness of our furry friends throughout their lives.