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IVDD Intervertebral Disc Disease

IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease) is a common spinal condition in dogs, also known as herniated or bulging disc. It can be seen in dogs of any breed and is occasionally seen in cats. Some breeds are affected more frequently, especially those dogs with shorter legs, like Dachshunds and French Bulldogs.

Discs are the shock absorbing cushion between each of the vertebrae in the spine. When a disc degenerates or is damaged it can push up
onto the spinal cord, or onto the spinal nerves that carry messages from the spine to other parts of the body.

The degree of damage to the spinal cord varies, as do the symptoms.

Signs of IVDD

  • Back Pain: Your pet may show signs of discomfort, such as reluctance to move, sensitivity when touched, especially on the back, or crying out when picked up. As any person who has had disc issues will tell you, disc disease is extremely painful.
  • Reluctance to Jump: Pets with IVDD may avoid jumping or climbing stairs due to back pain
  • Abnormal Gait: Weakness or difficulty walking, a hunched back, dragging limbs, or a wobbly gait might be seen
  • Paralysis: In severe cases, pets can lose the ability to use their hind legs and become paralysed. Sometimes they can even lose feeling in the hind legs
  • Loss of Bladder/Bowel Control: IVDD can lead to incontinence in some pets

It’s crucial to see your vet promptly if you see any of these signs or suspect that your pet has IVDD because damage to the spinal cord can worsen if IVDD is not properly managed.

Your vet might recommend additional tests, such as X-rays and advanced imaging like an MRI or CT.

Dachshund dog

Treatment of IVDD

The treatment approach for IVDD depends on the severity of the condition.

Mild cases can respond well to rest and pain management. Your vet might recommend that your pet is strictly confined in a crate or a
small room in your house, avoiding any stairs and jumping. Pain management options include prescription medication and acupuncture.

Physical therapies such as rehab / physio and hydrotherapy during
the recovery phase can help to improve mobility and strengthen muscles. Acupuncture is also useful during this phase to help manage any discomfort.

For pets with severe pain or paralysis, spinal surgery may be
necessary to decompress the spinal cord and stabilize the spine. Acupuncture, rehab and hydrotherapy are useful during the recovery period, improving your pet’s ability return to normal function.

Preventing IVDD

While IVDD can’t always be entirely prevented, there are some things you can do to reduce the chance of your pet having disc issues.


  1. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Being overweight puts extra stress on the spine and makes it more difficult for your pet to exercise, so sticking to a healthy weight makes a real difference

  2. Avoid High Impact Activities: Train your pet not to jump up and minimise jumping from heights, especially if your pet is one of the at-risk breeds

  3. Regular acupuncture, rehab and physio can help at-risk pets to keep their backs in great shape

If you’d like to know more about how acupuncture can help your pet with IVDD, please give us a call

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