Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) mainly affects breeds that are bred with a genetic disorder leading to an abnormality in the cell structure of their cartilage and soft tissues. This effects their discs as cartilage makes up the outer fibrous layer of an intervertebral disc. Such breeds effects predominately include Daschunds, but also Shitzu, Pekingnese, Basser Hounds, Spaniels and Beagles, amongst others.
So what is an intervertebral disc? It’s the cushion sitting between the vertebra, or boney building blocks, of the spine. Sometimes it’s referred to as similar to a jam doughnut, although tough and thick on the outside, the inner disc is made of a thick sticky substance. The disc absorbs the impact of movement/ concussion as we move, run and jump around.
There are a number of classifications of IVDD - Hansen I, II and III, but not all canine back pain is IVDD so it is always vital if you think there is something wrong to have your dog checked by their veterinarian. There is a lot of information on this disease here: https://www.dachshund-ivdd.uk. Depending on the classification of disease and the grade of injury to the spinal cord the symptoms you will see in your dog will differ from grade I; localised back pain without neural compromise, to grade V; back pain, paralysis of the hindlimbs, loss of bladder/ bowel control and loss of deep pain sensation in the paws. Any of these symptoms from grade I – V need immediate veterinary attention. IVDD can be managed operatively or conservatively and depending on the grade of the injury diagnosed your vet will outline the appropriate management plan for your dog, whether that is conservative or surgical.
In recovery dogs are great at developing compensatory movement patterns in allowing them to do as they please and fulfil their family or working role. It is therefore absolutely mandatory you must follow your veterinarian’s instructions on resting your dog! This is the hardest part for doting owners and I have seen it many times. Our dogs whinge at us and they pull puppy eyes and it is difficult to leave them in their crate. However, you understand why you are managing them in this way, and you are imperative in your dog’s recovery!
Overall, we are aiming to maximise your dog’s quality of movement so whether post-op or on conservative management a referral by your vet for early Physiotherapy input is key in optimising your dog’s long-term recovery. Your Physiotherapist can assist with pain management, quality of movement, advising you on enabling your dog by adapting aspects of your home environment and prescribing well-reasoned specifically targeted exercises in increasing range of movement, strength and endurance towards their usual activities. Your Physiotherapist will work collaboratively for a multidisciplinary team approach to your dog’s management including with your vet, nurse, hydrotherapist and you! More information on the impact of specific rehabilitation can be found here: https://www.dachshund-ivdd.uk/symptoms-treatment/rehabilitation/
There is lots of information out there on IVDD, but be selective with what you read. If there is anything for you to suspect your dog might have back pain getting to the vet immediately is your best course of action, from here you can begin the diagnosis process and the best course of management for your dog. If you are looking for a Physiotherapist to support you in your dog’s management you can find your local Human and Veterinary Chartered Physiotherapist on the ACPAT website: https://www.acpat.org/find-a-physio.