a good vet can be tricky. Many vets are wonderful with
the routine visits but when it comes to a health
problem not commonly seen, they may not have the
experience to treat IVDD.
Talk to your friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc. and
ask them about their vet. Particularly ask if they've
ever had to use the vet in an emergency situation or
when their dog was ill rather than just for well
visits or routine exams. When you hear of one that
sounds good call the office and ask them a few
questions. You might even set up an appointment for a
consultation visit, this isn't all that uncommon these
Having a vet familiar with IVDD is important as it is
a disease your dog will have for the rest of its life.
If a vet is open to learning, consulting with
colleagues plus an owner willing to delve into
learning about IVDD and discussing the information
with their vet then that works out great. But if your
vet isn't open to such a situation and isn't treating
IVDD properly then it's time to look for a new vet.
Should your dog need surgery look for a board
certified specialist to perform this most delicate of
surgeries. Look for these letters to indicate the vet
is a board certified surgeon: Neuro (ACVIM) or
Board-certified surgical specialists can be found at
University vet teaching hospitals. You can locate
these Veterinary surgeons (ACVS) and neuro surgeons
(ACVIM) here: http://find.vetspecialists.com
Search Dodgerslist Members' reported surgical costs
"Five Red Flag
Indicators That It’s Time to Find a New Vet"
General information on getting your pet's records for
the new vet.: http://www.petmd.com/blogs/dailyvet/2010/february/vet_breakup-5453
The American Veterinary Medical Association has a
summary of state laws that govern the release of
patient veterinary records: https://www.avma.org/Advocacy/StateAndLocal/Pages/sr-confidentiality-patient-records.aspx
What is Board
When looking for a vet or surgeon, patients
generally see many alphabet credentials and
certifications in a title. Many times these
credentials are confusing, and there is little
opportunity to weigh the relative value of seemingly
With a four year general practice veterinary DVM
degree and a license, a vet may practice any kind of
medicine or surgery with or without additional
The American Veterinary Medical Association
mandates the use of “specialist” be reserved
only for veterinarians who have completed advanced
study to become a “diplomate” , board
certified. Diplomates have completed an
additional coursework, approved residency and passed
the board’s exam and may rightly then use ACVIM or
ACVS in their title.
indicates having completed board certification from
the American College of Veterinary Internal
Medicine. These veterinary surgeons are specialists
in neurological diseases such as IVDD.
having completed board certification from the
American College of Veterinary Surgeons. These vets
are specialists in orthopedics (injuries
and diseases of the bones, joints, ligaments,
tendons, muscles, and nerves)
While many vets who are family practice DVMs (not
board certified) might offer neurological surgery,
board certification is a good standard by which to
measure competence and training.
You can be confident that vets who are board
certified (ACVIM or ACVS) have at a minimum the
proper training in their specialty and have
demonstrated their proficiency through supervision
and testing. While there are many non-board
certified vets who are highly competent, it is more
difficult for a dog owner to assess the level of
their training. Naturally, board certification alone
does not guarantee competence, but it is a standard
that reflects successful completion of an
appropriate training program.
for the general family
practice DVM vet
- How often do you see
dogs with IVDD?
- How do you treat a mild
IVDD episode with pain only? When there is
neuro function loss?
- What period of crate rest do you recommend? Is
that actually in a crate (recovery suite) or just
keeping the dog quiet?
- If both steroids and NSAID
anti-inflammatories are in your clinic, how
do you choose which to use during a disc episode?
- How do you feel about pain management?
- What surgeon would you send me to if my dog
needed IVDD surgery?
- Who are the IVDD friendly ER vets?
- What is your opinion of alternative and
non-traditional treatments for IVDD: supplements
& acupuncture, laser light therapy? NOTE:
Chiropractic manipulation (VOM) is a red flag
for IVDD dogs.
- Do you have a list of alternative providers that
you regularly work with?
to ask your ER DVM vet:
- What tests or examinations will you perform to
determine what my dog has? (neurological exam,
x-rays to rule out other things that mimic IVDD,
bloodwork for organ health?)
- If my dog has a disc herniation, does he have
bladder and bowel control? If not, can you give me
a hands on top of my hands bladder expressing
- What treatment options do you offer?
- Are you staffed to keep him overnight?
Technician or lay staff?
- If you are going to administer drugs, which are
they and what are their side effects? Pain meds?
- Does your facility have a board-certified
surgeon or a specialized neurological or
orthopedic surgeon? If not, will you refer us to
one if surgery is needed?
- Surgery is not an option for us, will my dog
continue treatment with you or will you refer me
to another vet? If so, what are the
recommendations of that vet? Can you transfer us
to my regular daytime vet?
- What is your final diagnosis and prognosis?
- Have you ruled out any other diseases? How and
what tests were done?
- Will you write down all the drugs, tests and
results of my dog for me to have, and to take to
another vet if needed? Can I have a copy of my
records and my x-rays to take to my regular vet or
the referral surgeon?
- Referral to a board-certified neurological or
to ask the board certified neuro or ortho SURGEON:
- Do you use MRI,
Myelogram or CT Scan
to determine the site of the herniation? What are
the risks of each one or the one you use?
- What are the risks of surgery, length of time on
- What is your IVDD
experience, IVDD case
- What techniques do you use? Anesthesia: premeds,
IV or gas induction agent, monitors, post
operative pain medication; ICU
hours? Technicians or lay staff? – ask for
explanation in layman’s terms if you don’t
- Tell me about your specialized surgical
equipment if an operation is needed.
- Do you fenestrate? (operate on adjacent discs to
prevent a future herniation). If not, what are
- What symptoms must the dog show for you to
perform surgery vs. continuing with conservative
treatment? (do they wait until the dog is
paralyzed, just in pain, just wobbly, etc).
- What drugs are usually recommended after
surgery? Will you provide an pain med Rx in case
at home pain occurs?
- What post-op protocol do you usually recommend
regarding physical therapy plus how many weeks of
- Is there a technician to show me how to express
the bladder and perform exercises if I need a
- Will you provide me with a list of symptoms that
might indicate that something is wrong with my
dog’s healing process once he is at home?
- What is my procedure if something goes wrong
during healing at home? (who to call, where to go,
what to do).