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IVDD management at home, from a Physio Perspective.

Daxie’s, Pekes, Frenchies. Some of the world's most beloved dog breeds because of their spunky and unique personalities, and adorable looks. But they are some of the breeds we see the most of in vet physio practice. These dog breeds are all predisposed to a pathology called intervertebral disc disease, IVDD for short.

What is IVDD?

We have to first talk about the anatomy of the spine. A dog's spine is made up of 30 single bones called vertebrae. These bones house and protect the spinal chord which supplies nerves to the entire body. These vertebrae are not fused, they are connected by ligaments , meaning there is movement and flexibility of the spine. And because there is movement through the spine, there needs to be some kind of shock absorption. This is where the cushion-like disc comes in. They sit between each vertebra. An intervertebral disc is often compared to a “jelly donut”, it has a strong, fibrous outer layer called the annulus fibrosus, and a soft gel-like inner layer called the nucleus pulposus.Sometimes these discs end up pushing on the spinal cord causing the symptoms we see in IVDD patients.

But how?

There are 3 types of IVDD, we will talk briefly about each of them.Hansen type 1 IVDD, is the type we commonly see in the breeds I mentioned above; the breeds that are “predisposed’. Type 1 is characterised by the “extrusion’ of the disc. This means that the jelly-like nucleus extrudes-or is pushed out of -the annulus fibrosus, causing the nucleus pulposus to push onto the spinal chord. This type of IVDD is acute, where, often a single movement causes the disc to extrude.

Hansen type 2 IVDD is the form we see in larger and (mostly) older dogs. It occurs when the disc “protrudes” on to the spinal chord . It is a degenerative, and chronic form of IVDD, where the annulus fibrosus starts to wear and break down, causing both the inner and outer parts of the disc to bulge out and compress the spinal chord.

The third type is Hansen type 3 IVDD. This is called an “acute non-compressive” disc, where there is a sudden tear in the annulus fibrosus. It is often caused by heavy exercise or trauma. In these cases there is no ongoing compression of the spinal chord, and does not require surgery.

How do we know our dog has IVDD?

There are a few signs before diagnosis that could indicate IVDD. However these signs vary between patients according to level and severity.Some examples of these signs:

●  Severe back pain

●  Yelping after jumping or running

●  Difficulty jumping

●  Ataxia- drunken sailor walking

●  Hind leg paralysis, sudden or progressive

●  Hind leg weakness

●  Loss of sensation in the back legs

●  Hunching

●  Incontinence

No matter what signs we see, diagnosis can only be made by the vet. X Rays, CT scans and MRI scans are often advised by the vet in order to get an accurate idea of the level of the spine the disc occurred and the severity.Thereafter treatment will be advised, either surgical or conservative, along with pain management.

In the physio center.

This is where the physio team comes in. Whether we treat a surgical or conservative case, we will adjust our goals of treatment to the individual dog, and will create a treatment plan that is best suited to them.Typically our goals include:

●  Pain management

●  Improve mobility and walking

●  Improve proprioception and body awareness

●  Strengthen core and HQs

●  Surgical scar healing

●  Preventing degeneration

Back at home

Then you, as owners, play a very important role in getting your skeetches back to normal activity and in preventing re-injury. When your dog comes home from the hospital, you will be advised on the do’s and don’ts.Let's go through a few.


  • Strict confinement and cage rest.

This is probably the most important thing you

can do as an owner. If we can limit the amount of movement going through the

dog's body, it allows the body to heal, and aids in prevention of re-injury.

  • Home exercises.

Your physio will prescribe you an exercise program to do at home. Rehab doesn't just happen at physio appointments, it is a continuous process that can be done at home too. These exercises are specific to the individual patient.

  • Heat packing shoulders.

Your dog's front quarters are working extra hard so strain is placed on those joints and muscles. A nice and warm bean bag helps in relieving muscle tension and joint pain.


  • Unsupervised activity. What we don’t want is for your dog to do something to hurt

themselves again!

  • Jumping.

Either jumping up or down from furniture can have possible risks to your dog. If their back legs are functional, they are often weaker. This means that if they try to jump they might not be strong enough to jump nicely, increasing their risk of falling. Jumping down also has the risk of falling, but it also sends quite a bit of impact through the spine as they land.

  • Stairs.

Like previously mentioned, weak back legs may make going up stairs difficult, increasing the risk of falling. Going down stairs has the effect of gravity, making it more challenging to stabilize going downstairs, increasing impact through the spine and making falling more of a risk.

  • Slippery floors.

If your doggy is wobbly and weak in their back legs, they often struggle on slippery floors. Stumbling and slipping out with their back legs may cause them to fall and hurt themselves.

There are a few other things to take into consideration. Sometimes further management is needed in patients that are incontinent, meaning they have lost bladder and bowel control. These cases need to be specially monitored and managed to prevent infections or other complications. Pain management is also very important. If you find your dog is very sore and not coping, a vet check is always advised. The pain management protocol may differ in surgical and conservative cases. It is important to remember that every dog is different, and often their recovery rate and degree of recovery differs. There is no set pattern. We must just give our dogs time and loads of love while they are recovering.

When your dog has IVDD, it can be a scary and uncertain time. The vet and physio team is here to guide you in ensuring the best possible outcome for your precious furbaby. At Ramsay Rehab, we are always available to advise, assist and comfort.

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