What is intervertebral disc disease?
Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is an age-related, degenerative disorder where the cushioning discs that lay between the vertebrae of the spinal column either burst or bulge into the spinal cord space, also referred to as a slipped disc or ruptured disc. When this occurs, the material inside the disc will leak into the spinal column and press against the nerve roots or spinal cord. This ultimately causes pain, weakness, nerve damage, incoordination, and frequently paralysis.
There are two major categories of disc disease, Hansen Type I and Hansen Type II. Type I involves nucleus pulposus degeneration and extrusion. This is most common in the neck region of small breed dog aged two years old and above.
Type II involves annulus fibrosis degeneration and protrusion and occurs in animals with disproportionately short limbs. IVDD is more common in dogs but is also occasionally seen in cats. It is one of the most common neurologic disorders in dogs.
How can I tell if my pet has intervertebral disc disease?
The most common sign associated with IVDD is pain that is localized to the back or neck. You may notice an unwillingness to jump, hunched back or neck with tense muscles, your pet crying out in pain, muscle spasms over the back or neck, or lameness. Additional symptoms can include anxious behavior, loss of bladder and/or bowel control, or a reduced activity level and appetite.
How is the condition managed?
When managing the condition, the aim is to eliminate the symptoms caused by the disc displacement or degeneration and attempt to prevent recurrence. Mildly affected dogs may be prescribed medical treatment such as steroids and anti-inflammatories to reduce pain and swelling of the cord. However, if the damage is too severe, a hemilaminectomy may be required to remove the ruptured disc material.
What does a hemilaminectomy involve?
At the Arkansas Veterinary Surgery Center, we can perform a surgery known as a hemilaminectomy to manage the condition. During the procedure, the surgeon will approach the spinal column and remove the disc material. This allows the spinal cord to decompress and for the healing process to begin.
How long will my pet be in the hospital?
Animals will typically remain in the hospital for 3 to 10 days following surgery. Once they are able to urinate on their own and are comfortable, they will generally be discharged from the hospital.
What is the prognosis following surgery?
The majority of animals to undergo this surgery will recover function to their limbs relatively quickly and completely. Recovery time will depend on various factors, including the degree of damage sustained to the spinal cord, how fast the disc material hit the spinal cord and the amount of time that the spinal cord was compressed by the disc material.
What post-operative care is required after surgery?
Exercise restriction will be very important, so dogs may need to be confined to a crate or small room when left unsupervised. This will prevent overexertion and allow them to remain safe. Activity should be restricted for 4 to 6 weeks once the animal is back at home. This is generally when the patient will be rechecked to assess recovery.
Your pet will have an incision, which typically takes 10 to 14 days to heal. This should be closely monitored for signs of infection, including oozing, pain, swelling, or redness. Any concerns should be raised immediately with the neurological veterinary surgery.
Your veterinary surgeon will prescribe appropriate medication, and this should be delivered as outlined in the discharge instructions. This will include pain medication and possibly antibiotics. Rehabilitation is also crucial to help your pet regain function and help speed up the recovery process. At the start, passive range of motion will be important. Swimming would be a good form of exercise once the incision has healed.
The Arkansas Veterinary Surgery Center is a regional referral animal surgery center for orthopedic surgery on dogs, cats, and some exotic species. We are part of South County Animal Hospital in Greenwood, Arkansas. Our chief surgeon is Dr. Mark E. Sharp a graduate of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Oklahoma State University. We do both mobile surgery at your regular vet’s office and surgeries at our hospital. If you have a pet in need of a skilled surgeon for neurological or orthopedic procedures, call us at 479-996-6095.