In my last blog, we talked about what IVDD is and some of the clinical signs of the disease. Today, I’ll explain how we diagnose the condition and what treatment options are available to help pets who are suffering.
In order to diagnose IVDD, a thorough neurologic examination should be done. This will allow the clinician to localize the area along the back that seems to be affected. Spinal radiographs can help rule out other causes of the above mentioned clinical signs, but plain film radiographs are not a very good tool for diagnosing IVDD.
CT scans with myelography (injecting a contrast material into the area surrounding the spinal cord) can be very informative when diagnosing IVDD, but the best tool is an MRI. With an MRI, the insulting intervertebral disc(s) can be identified, the severity of the impingement can be seen, and the best course of therapy determined.
Some IVDD cases will respond well to medical management with anti-inflammatories (steroids are usually the best choice) and strict exercise restriction for up to eight weeks. Many IVDD cases will, however, require surgical intervention. Surgery generally involves removing a portion of the vertebra (referred to as a hemilaminectomy) and removing the insulting disc. As you can imagine, back surgery such as this is best handled by an experienced veterinary neurosurgeon.
Both medical management and surgical intervention require diligent at-home care and attention. After-care may include acupuncture, weight management, rehabilitation, laser therapy or custom doggie wheel chairs in order to maintain your dog’s quality of life. Some patient’s, despite diligent care, do not recover, and pet parents have to say good-bye to their beloved furry family member.
IVDD can be a very scary condition, and is frequently an emergency situation. Early intervention is imperative to survival and long term quality of life. If you suspect your pet may be suffering from IVDD, seek veterinary attention as soon as possible. As I always say, “It is better to hear ‘That’s nothing to worry about’ rather than ‘I wish we had known sooner.’”
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