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Sequence of disease degeneration and recovery
by Kim Knap, BS, CVT, Certified Canine Rehabiliation Practioner
University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital
April 2009

reprinted from Dodger's Digest July 2009. p6.

When a dog suffers from IVDD, certain things occur in a very specific order. The rate of these things occurring is the most variable. When owners first become aware of a problem, they may first notice pain that they cannot attribute to anything else. Shivering, hunched back, not eating. Often owners think they are constipated or have a stomach ache. Then they will start to notice ataxia or wobbly/drunken acting gait. If the disease progresses, loss of conscious proprioception is the next thing to occur. This is when the dog’s foot is turned upside down and they don’t know it is. A normal dog will quickly put its foot back correctly. Then a dog will loose the ability to walk. If allowed to progress, the dog will lose motor function. This is when the dog tells his foot to move and can make it do so of his own free will. This is NOT the same as squeezing a toe and seeing them pull the leg back. Sometime around the time the dog loses motor function, the nerves that control bladder function become affected, making it hard for the dog to properly urinate. If the disease progresses, the next thing a dog will lose is deep pain sensation. Deep pain sensation is tested by squeezing a toe very hard and watching for cognitive recognition of what is happening. If the dog simply pulls the foot back, that is NOT deep pain positive. Deep pain positive is a clue that the pain message is getting past the damaged spinal cord to the brain. Examples of deep pain include: crying out, turning to look at you, panting, wiggling etc. It is very important to have a veterinarian properly recognize deep pain sensation. If a dog comes in for surgery before they lose deep pain sensation, they have a 80-90% chance of walking again within 12 weeks. If they have lost deep pain, the chances decrease to anywhere from 5-50%.

With cage rest or surgery, these things come back in the exact opposite order. If deep pain is lost, we watch closely for it to return. Then we watch for motor to return. About the time that motor returns, some urinary function returns as well. After motor comes back, it takes them a while to become strong enough and coordinated enough to walk again. Once they walk, it will be very wobbly for some time. The last thing to come back is the conscious proprioception. That is why you have to be careful to make sure they don’t scrape up their feet. It is important to understand that this is a slow and gradual progress with certain milestones. It is very difficult to say what the end result will be on a daily basis, we watch for trends over time with each individual dog. Not all dogs recover to normal, but many dogs recover to an extent that allows for a great quality of life.

[Editor's note: It is a very reasonable expectation for your dog to again be pain free and happy and regardless of walking ability to still enjoy a very good quality of life. Check out the abundance of typical IVDD success stories]

This information is presented for educational purposes and as a resource for the Dachshund community. The coordinators are not veterinarians or health care professionals. Nothing herein should be interpreted as medical advice and all should contact their pet care professionals for advice. The coordinators are not responsible for the substance and content contained herein and do not advocate any particular product, item or position contained herein.