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Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) - Thoracolumbar Area in Dogs

By: Dr. Nicholas Trout

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Treatment In-depth

The choice of medical versus surgical treatment depends on the severity of the problem.

  • Medical treatment

    For dogs that can walk but that have back pain or are clumsy, medical treatment may be appropriate. This involves strict cage rest and the use of medications such as muscle relaxants and steroids. Your dog may be hospitalized and given a course of intravenous steroids or a course of oral steroids that taper off over a number of weeks when your dog goes home.

    The common steroid used is prednisone. Administration of prednisone will likely result in your dog having an increased thirst, urinating more often, and having an increased appetite.

  • Surgical treatment

    When the animal is unable to walk normally, is paralyzed or has no deep pain sensation, surgery may be recommended. A myelogram or CT scan may be performed to locate the exact disc space affected. The disc may have erupted on the right or left side or from directly below the spinal cord and this will affect the type of surgery performed. Usually a small window of bone is drilled in the spinal bone (laminectomy) to allow decompression of the spinal cord and access to the ruptured disc material.

    Your dog will not be cured instantly by surgery. The procedure takes the pressure off the cord, allowing it the opportunity to heal. The surgery does not do anything directly to the cord itself, which must heal on its own. The chance that this can occur varies with the severity and duration of the injury.

    Prognosis

  • Medical management is successful in about 80 to 90 percent of dogs with just back pain.

  • If your dog could still walk before surgery, but was wobbly, the prognosis following surgery is excellent.

  • If your dog had lost the ability to walk, but still had deep pain sensation, the prognosis following surgery is good.

  • If your dog had lost deep pain sensation, the prognosis following surgery becomes guarded. If this had been the case for greater than 48 hours, then the outlook for walking again is grave, whether surgery is performed or not.

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