Intervertebral disc disease, or IDD, is a condition marked by bulging or herniated disks. Many small dog breeds, such as dachshund, Shih Tzu, and beagle are predisposed to IDD. This predisposition comes from a unique genetic form of dwarfism. The dwarfism causes a defect that doesn’t allow cartilage to mature, which can result in degenerative damage of disks. Oftentimes, IDD is painless, but if it does begin to cause your dog pain, a veterinarian is needed to diagnose and treat the illness.
Thankfully, most dogs suffering from IDD don’t experience any effects. Everything is happening under the skin, and most of it isn’t painful. Although their discs are likely mineralizing and degrading, it’s unlikely they’ll show any evidence of pain or discomfort. In some cases IDD will manifest itself painfully. Neck pain is commonly felt, as is back pain and nerve pain. Seek a veterinarian right away, if you believe your dog is experiencing pain associated with IDD.
Pain is the only noticeable symptom associated with IDD. If your dog is showing an unwillingness to do normal activities, such as jump or play, she may be experience pain. Other pain-related symptoms of IDD include: weakness in rear legs, painful cries, anxious behavior, tense muscles, muscle spasms around the back or neck, reduced activity, reduced appetite, and loss of bladder and/or bowel control.
Only a veterinarian can diagnose IDD, as a complete neurological exam is needed to identify injuries and abnormal areas around the spine. Your veterinarian will begin with a physical exam. He will feel around your dog’s body, deducing where pain is coming from, as well as what areas may be most affected. Your veterinarian may also order x-rays, or an MRI to determine if IDD is causing your dog’s discomfort.
Treatment is entirely dependent on the severity of the disease. Some dogs only suffer mildly, and their IDD can be treated with drugs, such as anti-inflammatories and steroids. Some dogs find their back spasms are relieved when heat is applied and their skin is massaged. Moderate to severe IDD is going to be more challenging. Emergency surgery may be required, wherein your veterinarian will remove portions of your dog’s vertebrae. Unfortunately, some dogs do not fully recover after surgery.