Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) in the Cervical Area in Dogs

Overview of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) in the Cervical Area

Cervical disc disease involves the acute or chronic pressure of material from an intervertebral disc pressing on or around the spinal cord in the area of the neck. This condition may be referred to as Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) that occurs in the cervical area of the neck.

The exact cause of disc degeneration is unknown but in many cases there is a change in the content of the disc from a soft, pliable gel to stiff mineral that can slowly compress the spinal cord or suddenly burst into the spinal canal. Discs in the cervical region of the spine can affect the front legs and the back legs to varying degrees. This disc disease can affect one side of the body or both sides.

Dogs may show only mild neck pain all the way through to complete paralysis of all four legs without the ability to perceive any sensation whatsoever. Sudden onset neck pain is the most common clinical sign.

Chondrodystrophic breeds such as dachshunds and Pekingese are among the breeds more commonly affected. There is a higher incidence in beagles. Most dogs are middle aged and there is no sex predilection.

What to Watch For

Signs of cervical area Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) in dogs may include:

Diagnosis of Cervical Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) in Dogs

Treatment of Cervical Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) in Dogs

The type of appropriate treatment will depend on the severity of the clinical signs. Dogs with milder forms of the disease may be treated medically, whereas more severe cases may need surgery. Treatment may include one or more of the following:

Home Care and Prevention

Strict cage rest will be essential for at least four weeks when opting for medical management. This rest is essential to allow a scar to form over the top of the disc material; early activity may precipitate the herniation of the rest of the disc material and worsening of your dog’s condition. Failure to confine a dog with disc herniation is a common reason for early recurrence.

If your dog is unable to urinate on his own, he will need help emptying his bladder. When the bladder overfills, urine dribbles out, but this results in stretching of the bladder and may make your dog unable to urinate even if there is improvement in the condition of the spinal cord. Bladder emptying is usually done three to four times a day. If your dog is released from the hospital while he is still having difficulty urinating be sure that your veterinarian shows you how to empty the bladder (called “expressing” the bladder).

If your dog is unable to walk, physical therapy is important to promote muscle strength. Have your veterinarian or the veterinary staff show you how to do this.

Be prepared for small increments of improvement. Depending on the severity of the disease your veterinarian will estimate how long your dog’s recovery may take. Most likely your dog won’t walk immediately away after surgery. Just as in people, it takes time to recover from spinal cord injury, so be patient.

Observe your dog closely for any worsening of clinical signs. If you notice any deterioration in your dog’s condition, contact your veterinarian immediately. If he is predisposed to back problems be aware of the early signs of disc disease. If he shows any sign that might indicate a neurologic problem, seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.

In-depth Information on Cervical Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

The combination of your dog’s breed, history of clinical signs and the veterinary examination will be suggestive of a cervical spinal problem. In the neck region, disc disease would be the most likely cause of a spinal disorder, particularly in 4 to 9 year old chondrodystrophic breeds of dogs.

In-depth Information on Diagnosis

After taking a detailed history, your veterinarian will perform a general physical examination, which is usually normal aside from cervical pain. Ability to flex and extend the neck is noted together with range of motion to the left or the right.

In-depth Information on Treatment

Medical treatment for Cervical IVDD in Dogs

Surgical treatment for Cervical IVDD in Dogs

Prognosis for Dogs with Cervical Disc Disease (IVDD)

Follow-up Care for Dogs with Cervical Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

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

Most dogs that receive cervical disc surgery to not have problems urinating but if necessary your vet will show you how to hold your dog to compress and empty the bladder. Medication may be used to help with bladder function.

You will need to check the incision on the underside of the neck daily for swelling redness or discharge. Stitches or staples must be removed in two weeks.

Most dogs continue to have control of their bowel movements but occasionally may need assistance to stand to defecate. If you can, support your dog to encourage a more normal bowel movement. Make sure their back end stays clean.

Passive range of motion may be encouraged if your dog is taking a little longer to recover. This involves shoulder, elbow, hip and stifle flexion and extension exercises to promote good muscle tone and joint mobility in order to offset muscle wasting.

For dogs that are unable to walk, soft padded bedding is very important, and turning him frequently from side to side, at least four times a day, can help prevent the development of pressure sores.

All dogs following spinal surgery 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.