What is the prognosis of a dog paralyzed in the rear legs (IVDD)?

Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra – we have a 7-year-old dachshund that has just been diagnosed with IVDD. At present it has been 36 hours since he lost the use of his back legs.

The doctor has him on a pain reliever and a muscle relaxer. We had to take him to an emergency vet; he has not been to his regular doctor yet. If he does not get the use of his legs back, what will the outcome be? I would like an honest answer.

Thank you

Elizabeth Codding

Answer

Hi Elizabeth– thanks for your email. Sorry to hear about your dachshund's problem. You emailed that he has been diagnosed with IVDD. As you may know, that stands for intervertebral disc disease. It is a common problem in dachshund dogs due to a genetic problem with the discs in their backs. Basically, the disc becomes abnormal and pops out to hit the spinal cord. In mild cases, if the spinal cord is minimally damaged, the symptoms can be pain and weakness. As the cord is more severely damaged, paralysis and no pain result.

The best treatment depends on the severity of the injury. In mild cases, pain relievers and cage rest is the treatment of choice. Many dogs will do okay and retain all function. In severe cases, surgery is the best option for return of function. The sooner the better.

Dr. Nicholas Trout wrote an article about this condition and indicated that "Medical management is successful in about 80 to 90 percent of dogs with just back pain. If a dog can still walk before surgery, but was wobbly, the prognosis following surgery is excellent. If a 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."

I hope this helps! Best of luck.

An article that might be helpful to you is Intervertebral Disc Disease – Thoracolumbar Area in Dogs.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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