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Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

Dogs, and to a lesser extent cats, are often affected by disc problems. There are three areas that are most commonly affected; the neck, the mid-back region and the lower back. Presenting signs can vary from simple mild discomfort all the way to complete paralysis of either the rear or all four limbs.

A disc is a structure that acts like a shock absorber between each of the bones of the spinal column. Many breeds of dogs, usually the smaller breeds, begin to develop degenerative changes to the disc early in life. The outer tough portion of the disc becomes friable, so that a simple injury may cause a tear, allowing the inner normally gelatinous material to escape and put pressure on the outlying spinal cord.

Treatment of disc problems varies from simple restriction of exercise and anti-inflammatory medications for mildly affected patients, all the way to surgical procedures for patients where the spinal cord has been compromised more severely. The aim of treating a patient with a spinal injury is an attempt to prevent irreversible damage to the spinal cord. Dogs that have lost a significant amount of their ability to use their legs are often immediate surgical candidates. We operate these patients on an emergency basis in order to give us the best chance of preserving the spinal cord and preventing permanent damage. The particular type of surgery (Cervical Slot, Laminectomy) would depend upon the location of the injury.

Click on the procedure below to learn more.


A Myelogram is a radiographic study of the spine following the injection of a contrast material into the space between the spinal cord and bony vertebrae. In a normal animal, the dye would flow evenly along the spinal cord. If a herniated disc is present, the dye column is not present or is displaced at the location of the injury and swelling. This specialized study is done under anesthesia, often just prior to moving a patient into surgery.

Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)

DM is a progressive disease of the spinal cord found in older dogs. It begins with subtle knuckling of one or both of the hind limbs when walking and loss of coordination (ataxia) in the hind limbs. This weakness worsens over time until the dog is unable to walk. DM is not a painful disease, but the diagnosis is devastating because there is no known cure. Stem Cell Therapy has been used on a compassionate care basis in these cases as it may help to slow the overall progression of the disease.

For more in-depth information about Stem Cell Therapy, click here.