What is disc disease?

IVDD is a disease and not an injury. The trauma to the spinal cord results from hardening of the discs due to the disease.

IVDD causes discs to age earlier in life. Discs lose moisture and harden and can no longer cushion the vertebrae along the spine. IVDD occurs in breeds such as dachshunds, poodles, corgis, beagles, but it is not limited to just those breeds.

If a dog has IVDD, a disc problem can happen at any age. When the disc has weakened to a certain degree, it will herniate. You may or may not be able to pinpoint a specific incident as causing the start of symptoms. Many dogs that have IVDD have their first episode typically between the ages of 3-7.

Disc disease may be an ongoing, progressive disease for the rest of the dog’s life. Some dogs have only one episode others have multiple episodes over their life time.

  • Prevention and being educated to catch symptoms early is important.
  • No stairs, no jumping up and down, use ramps, always attach a leash to a harness.

Illustration reprinted with permission by the copyright owner, Hill's Pet Nutrition, from the Atlas of Veterinary Clincal Anatomy.

As vertebrae in the spine move they can increase pressure on a weakened disc causing a tear in the tough outer ring. Degnerated discs can bulge into spinal cord area, or they can rupture, aka slip, prolapse, herniate, as shown in above illustration. Bulges can cause mild symptoms of pain or wobbly walking. More severe disc damage causes paralysis of legs and loss of bladder control.


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