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Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) - Thoracolumbar Area in Dogs

By: Dr. Nicholas Trout

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Following surgery, dogs are usually hospitalized for several days to assess their early improvement and to determine the level of bladder function.

Many dogs need help emptying their bladders for awhile after surgery. Generally expressing the bladder is done three to four times a day until control over the bladder returns, and your veterinarian will show you how to perform the procedure. Medication may be used to help with bladder function.

Check the incision daily for swelling, redness or discharge. Stitches or staples are usually removed in two weeks.

Most dogs have control of their bowel movements but are unable to stand to defecate, and therefore have a tendency to soil themselves. If you can, support your dog to encourage a more normal bowel movement, and make sure the hind limbs and rump area stay clean.

After the stitches have been removed swimming in the bath can be an excellent form of physiotherapy. Passive range of motion should be encouraged in all dogs. This involves hip and knee flexion and extension exercises. This promotes good muscle tone and joint mobility in order to offset muscle wasting.

For dogs that are unable to walk, soft padded bedding will be very important. Turning your dog from side to side often, at least four times a day can help prevent the development of pressure sores.

Following spinal surgery all dogs need rest and confinement for a period of four to six weeks, even if they appear to be moving well. This allows the tissue around the surgical site to heal.

Recovery time is extremely variable. Some dogs that have been completely paralyzed may walk within a few days, and others may take several months. Some dogs may return to normal completely, while others may have residual neurological deficits. These deficits may be mild and not affect the quality of your dog's life, while others may be so significant that an owner may be forced to consider using a paraparetic cart to restore some type of mobility. Others may be forced to opt for euthanasia, when they realize that an acceptable quality of life for their dog cannot be restored.

An early diagnosis of disc disease is very important to optimize your dog's outcome. Have your dog evaluated for suspected disc disease in an emergency because progression from weakness to paralysis can occur within hours. Your veterinarian may refer you to a surgical or neurological specialist for treatment.

Avoid excessive weight gain in chondrodystrophic breeds of dogs that will result in excessive load across the thoracolumbar region of the spine.

It is uncommon for a dog that has had spinal surgery to have a recurrence at the same or another site at a later date, but if you suspect that this has happened see your veterinarian as soon as possible.


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