Intervertebral Disc Disease is a serious condition seen most commonly in certain breeds of dog, such as Dachshunds, Bulldogs and Bassett Hounds – chondrodystrophic (cartilege disorder) breeds with characteristic angular limb deformities and abnormally short legs, otherwise known as hereditary dwarfism.
Other breeds affected include Beagles, Corgis, Cocker Spaniels, Pekingese, Shih-Tzu and Poodles. Non-chondrodystrophic breeds commonly affected by IVDD include German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers and Dobermans.
IVDD can cause a number of symptoms, ranging from signs of mild pain to partial or complete paralysis. Most cases fall somewhere in between the two. The signs of IVDD can mimic those of acutely ruptured disks, such as from trauma, but the causes are very different. IVDD can lead to permanent nerve damage, making early diagnosis and treatment extremely important.
Intervertebral discs are cushioning pads that sit between vertebra of the spinal column. The discs have an outer layer of tough fibrous tissue and a centre that is more of a gel-like substance. They act as shock absorbers for the vertebra in the spinal column.
Intervertebral discs can degenerate over time, bulging outward, and even bursting or rupturing. When something goes wrong with a disc, the material inside escapes into the spinal column, pressing against the spinal cord or nerve roots, which causes pain, nerve damage, and sometimes paralysis. Depending on the location of the damaged disc, problems can occur anywhere in the animal’s body from the neck to the rear limbs. In humans, the condition is sometimes called a slipped disc or a herniated disc.
In chondrodystrophic breeds where bodies are long, legs are short and often bowed, it goes without saying that back problems will occur at some stage in the dog’s life. In younger dogs, the onset of IVDD is widely considered to be genetic (poor breeding practices). The same goes for non-chondrodystrophic breeds.