IVDD—or intervertebral disc disease—is one of the most common neurologic disorders found in our canine companions. Generally speaking, treatment is required early in order to combat IVDD so here, our Johns Creek vets explain IVDD surgery in dogs and its costs.
What is IVDD in dogs?
Intervertebral Disc Disease, also known as IVDD, is a spinal disorder that is caused by the herniation of an intervertebral disc in an afflicted dog. There is a thick, gelatinous substance called the intervertebral disc is located between the bones of your dog's spine and serves as a shock absorber. When the intervertebral disc is herniated, it can result in a concussion or compression of your pup's psoinal cord. This often causes debilitating and lasting damage. There are two kinds of IVDD, called Hanse Type I and Hansen Type II.
Hansen Type I is more commonly seen in chondrodystrophic breeds (dachshunds, corgis, beagles, etc.) and involves an acute rupture of the disc. While wear and tear calcifies and damages the disk over time, the rupture generally occurs suddenly as the result of a forceful impact (jumping, landing, etc.). A ruptured disk causes compression of the spinal cord and can result in pain, difficulty walking, paralysis, and/or the inability to urinate.
Hansen Type II is more commonly seen in large breed dogs. Examples of dog breeds more vulnerable to Hansen Type II IVDD disorder are Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, or Dobermans. With Type II, the discs become hardened over a longer period of time, eventually bulging or rupturing to cause spinal cord compression. This type is slow onset, there likely won't be any particular moment or action that can be identified as having caused the damage.
While a disc may bulge or herniate anywhere along your dog's spinal column, 65% of disc ruptures occur in the midback area and 18% occur in the neck area.
What are the signs and symptoms of IVDD?
The common symptoms of IVDD include but aren't limited to:
- Knuckling on paws
- Pain in the neck or back region
- Difficulty urinating and/or defecating
- Unwillingness or inability to walk
- Shaking or trembling (usually in response to pain)
How is IVDD diagnosed? What dog breeds are at risk?
If your veterinarian suspects that IVDD may be what is ailing your dog, they will often start with a physical exam to check your pet's orthopedic and neurological condition. Once IVDD is confirmed and its severity is determined, your vet will provide conservative treatment to help prevent further damage without resorting to surgery and may then refer your dog for an x-ray to determine the extent of the damage.
Owners should be aware that these breeds of dog are predisposed to IVDD:
- Dachshund (45-70% of IVDD cases)
- French bulldog
- Lhasa Apso
- Shih Tzu
- Basset hound
- Doberman pinscher
- Cocker spaniel
- Labrador retriever
- German shepherd
Can a dog recover from IVDD without surgery?
In its earliest stages, IVDD has quite mild symptoms. If the disease is caught early enough in your dog, your vet may recommend non-invasive treatment options like prescribed exercises and pain medications instead of surgery. While this is sometimes enough, many patients that develop IVDD do end up needing surgery down the road if their condition continues to deteriorate.
Three critical components to non-invasive treatment for IVDD are strict crate rest, sedatives to promote relaxation, and pain medication.
Crate rest is mandatory for the IVDD to heal, if your dog's lifestyle does not include crate rest, or if they are otherwise very active and rarely slow down, your vet may prescribe medications to relax the dog and promote a more laid back lifestyle. We understand the trepidation some dog owners may have with medicating their pets in this way, but it is completely necessary in some cases to prevent energetic dogs from hurting themselves. With IVDD, a dog who does not get enough crate rest is at a hugely elevated risk of doing further damage that requires emergency surgery or, in some cases, incurable paralysis.
Pain medications will be prescribed if your dog is in discomfort. having a slipped disk hurts--it hurts a lot. If surgery is not the best path forward to correct the problem, pain medication will likely be required to keep the pain manageable while the injury heals.
What is IVDD surgery's success rate?
Based on the severity of IVDD's symptoms, it is graded on a scale of 1-5. A patient who is rated anywhere from 1-4 on that scale is expected to make a full recovery in 90% of cases. This number severely drops to 50% or even 60% when operating on a grade 5 case of IVDD in dogs. And that percentage assumes that surgery is able to be administered within 24 hours of the start of symptoms.
IVDD gets worse over time, so while noninvasive options are preferred for dogs with a positive prognosis, it is also important not to wait too long before scheduling surgery if it is the right option for your pet. Your veterinarian will make a recommendation for surgery based on each individual patient's situation
Patients who undergo surgery will have the bone overlying the spinal cord, and the disc material compressing the spinal cord, removed. This will be followed by several days of hospitalization, pain management, physical therapy, and possible bladder management. Owners will need to continue physical therapy and exercise restrictions for a specified amount of time after the pet is discharged from the hospital.
How much does IVDD surgery cost?
IVDD surgery itself can cost anywhere from $1500 to $4000, and that does not include costs for x-rays and other imaging techniques that will be required to properly prepare for the surgery. All-inclusive, the cost of surgical treatment for IVDD can land anywhere within a range of $3000-$8000 dollars. If you own a dog breed that is particularly susceptible to IVDD, it may be a good idea to keep a savings fund or purchase pet care insurance in case the day comes where they need surgery. IVDD is considered a very treatable disease, and so it is best to make sure you're prepared for the financial burden it can present in order to keep your canine companion living a long and happy life.
What is the prognosis for dogs with IVDD?
For most pups, the success rate for IVDD surgery is quite good! Barring the most severe cases, most dogs who receive treatment for IVDD will make a full recovery. IVDD is one of the many reasons it is critical that you make annual routine checkups with your vet. Catching this condition as early as possible will help to reduce the costs and risks of surgery. It may even prevent the need for surgery altogether.