Intervertebral disk disease is degeneration and protrusion of the intervertebral disk that results in compression of the spinal cord, spinal nerve, and/or nerve root. It is a common cause of spinal cord disease in dogs.
In this condition, the cushioning discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column either bulge or burst (herniate) into the spinal cord space. These discs then press on the nerves running through the spinal cord causing pain, nerve damage, and even paralysis.
Although all dogs can be affected by IVDD, Dachshund, Beagle, Basset Hound and Shih Tzu are more prone to this disorder.
Intervertebral discs are basically the shock absorbers of the body. They are made up of gelatinous substance surrounded by a thick outer layer. Disc herniation is of two types, Type 1 and Type 2, of which Type 2 has less severe signs and symptoms.
The observable signs of intervertebral disk disease can be quite variable. Owners of affected dogs may notice one or more of the following symptoms, which can be sudden, intermittent or gradual in onset:
Neck pain and stiffness (reluctance to move the neck and head)
Lowered head stance
Back pain and stiffness
Yelping unexpectedly when touched or moving
Abdominal tenderness or tenseness
Arched back (hunched posture, called “thoracolumbar kyphosis”)
Sensitivity to touch (possible aggression)
Sensitivity to movement
Impaired, incomplete or inappropriate urination
Dragging one or more legs when walking
“Toeing over” or “knuckling over” when walking or standing
Stilted gait; tentative gait
Reluctance to rise
Tremors, trembling, shaking
Lack of coordination (“ataxia”)
Paralysis in one or more limbs
Acute traumatic injury is not the same as IVDD, although the symptoms can be very similar. IVDD involves a degenerative process and does not result merely from sudden trauma, although sudden trauma can cause rupture or herniation of an intervertebral disk in a dog whose disks already are weakened by IVDD.