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Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) - Thoracolumbar Area in Dogs

By: Dr. Nicholas Trout

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Thoracolumbar (T-L) disc disease is a condition that occurs when pressure is placed on the spinal cord by disc material that herniates beneath or adjacent to the cord. This condition is commonly referred to as Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) that can occur in the thoracolumbar area of the back. The condition may be an acute (occurs suddenly) or chronic (slowly develops over time) condition in dogs.

The exact cause of disc degeneration is unknown but in many animals there is a change in the content of the disc from a soft, pliable gel to stiff mineral. This stiff material can slowly compress the spinal cord or suddenly burst into the spinal canal. When the disc involved is in the mid-portion or thoracolumbar area of the spine (the T-L region) the front legs are not affected; they remain normal. However, the back legs may be affected to varying degrees.

If your dog develops a T-L disc herniation the signs that he shows may be mild back pain only or, in severe cases, complete paralysis of the rear legs without the ability to perceive any sensation in the limbs.

Chondrodystrophic breeds – breeds that are prone to disorders of cartilege formation such as the dachshund, Lhasa apso and Pekingese – are among the breeds more commonly affected. T-L disc disease most commonly occurs when animals are between three and seven years of age.

What to Watch For

  • Back pain
  • Reluctance to play
  • Yelping when handled, petted or lifted
  • Reluctance to climb stairs
  • Clumsiness
  • Walking drunk
  • Inability to walk or paralysis

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