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Helping your dog with
Intervertebral Disc Disease

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is the most common spinal condition in dogs, it is age-related and degenerative and can occur in any dog, although short legged breeds are genetically predisposed and therefore may show signs in early adult life.

The discs in between vertebrae are usually jelly-like and act as shock absorbers. When they degenerate they become harder and lead to herniation, with or without spinal cord compression.

IVDD Overview

Signs of IVDD

IVDD is very painful, signs can vary is severity depending on the level of damage. There are 5 grades, 1 being mild and 5 being the most severe. Mild IVDD can cause a lot of pain, hunched back or difficulty to turn their neck, yelping and reluctance to move. In more severe cases (with spinal cord compression) they may see loss of mobility of their limbs, loss of sensation, incontinence and loss of 'deep pain'.

Causes of IVDD

As mentioned above, short-legged breeds such as Dachshunds are genetically predisposed to this condition, although any dog can get it. We also see French Bulldogs, Cockapoo's, Spaniels, Terrier types, the list goes on! 

The herniated disc causes a lot of pain, and, if severe, the disc compresses the spinal cord disrupting the signals to and from the brain causing limb weakness, wobbliness and, in severe cases, complete paralysis.

Treatment of IVDD

Surgery for IVDD is very expensive although it does have the best success rates. Surgery can remove disc debris and release spinal cord compression to allow the spinal cord to recover. Some owners have no choice but to opt for conservative management (i.e. non-surgical) which requires very strict crate rest, pain medication and PLENTY of physiotherapy / hydrotherapy.

What can we do about it?

Plenty! We have numerous modalities in clinic that we have at our finger tips to help your dog. These include massage, soft tissue mobilisation, stretching, joint mobilisations, targeted exercises, laser therapy, hydrotherapy... shall we continue? These have all been shown to reduce pain, restore muscle function and strength, and improve your dog's quality of life. With each session they undergo constant review of their clinical signs and progression in order to gain maximum recovery at a pace that's comfortable for them.


For Post - Operative Patients, we have a comprehensive programme tailored for your dog's specific needs, depending on the type of surgery, how successful the surgery was and their recovery so far. For Conservative Management Patients, we will always assess their pain levels, degree of mobility, muscle strength, amongst more, to enable us to create the most successful treatment plan for them.

There is never a guarantee with recovery, with or without surgery, but we are pleased to say we have never had a dog remain paralysed in our 10+ years of treating animals. The general rule of thumb is; if there is little to no improvement within 9-12months post-op or post-trauma then prognosis isn't looking great. We have had dogs in clinic who have regained 'deep pain' and started to walk months after their operation. Persistence and patience are KEY!


Alongside what we do with your beloved pooch, there are a number of things outside of the clinic that can help them manage their condition or rehabilitation. Please find information in the sections below!  

For more information on IVDD recovery, from creating an ideal crate environment to leasing harnesses, doggy buggies or doggy wheels please click here

Home Modifications After Crate Rest


Wooden floors and stairs are a big slip hazard for your dog. Try using non-slip mats along the main routes of your house. Alternatively, some dogs may benefit from paw pads (please speak to us before trying this option in case of contraindication).

Feeding Stations

Raising their water and food bowls may seem like a insignificant change to us, but it can really help your dog to be in a more neutral position.

Access to Furniture

Jumping up and down from heights if often a cause of additional pain / damage to your dog. If they enjoy a cuddle on the sofa or the bed, make it easier for them with dog-friendly steps or ramps onto furniture. This also applies to getting in / out of cars! You may find a sling to be useful.

Keeping Warm

Especially important in the colder months, your dog will benefit from staying warmer. Keep them in a jumper and walk them out with coats. Stay dry too!

Sleeping / Resting Areas

Great quality sleep is essential. Ensure their sleeping area is free from any drafts and in a warm spot. Their bedding should be supportive and not restrictive. Memory foam mattresses without rigid or tall sides are best. Make sure your dog can access the bed and can change position / stretch out easily.

Be Wary of Terrain

Different types of terrain in the garden and on walks can be hazardous, such as steep slopes, loose or uneven surfaces. Be mindful to where they are going.

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