Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a condition that primarily affects small dogs, but it can also affect medium and large dogs. It results from spinal cord degeneration and can develop over several years. It can go unnoticed until an event, such as a ruptured disc, suddenly affects the dog.
If you own a larger dog, there are plenty of things you can do to minimize the likelihood that your dog will suffer from IVDD later in life.
People often don’t realize how important good nutrition is in preventing disease. For dogs at risk of developing IVDD, diet plays a crucial role in promoting better spine health. Choose healthy dog food designed for your dog’s breed. Your vet can help you choose the best food for your pet. Whenever possible, add fresh meat, vegetables, and fruit to your dog’s diet.
Above all, avoid kibble blends. This type of dog food primarily consists of carbohydrates. In addition to lacking adequate quantities of fiber and nutrients, the carbs in kibble blends convert into sugar during digestion. Sugar is as detrimental to a dog’s health as it is to people’s health. High quantities of sugar can cause inflammation throughout the dog’s body, including the back muscles.
Discourage wild behavior
While dogs are animals and can be somewhat unruly, you should take steps to discourage them from engaging in wild behavior. In particular, jumping is a common habit that can lead to back problems, including IVDD. The stress that jumping places on the spine can cause damage that may take years to observe. Train your dog to walk calmly on stairs or inclines since running up and down the stairs also can lead to back problems.
If your dog is diagnosed with IVDD later in life, you may have to keep them from using stairs altogether. Training them to avoid stairs when they’re young can help prevent the disease from developing.
Skip the collar
While you may not realize it, using a collar and lead with your dog can also cause spinal cord damage that results in IVDD. Rather than using a traditional collar, try using a harness.
That reduces pressure on the spine and allows the dog to use his back and torso muscles. Teach your dog to walk with a loose leash because untrained dogs tend to pull. If your dog is diagnosed with IVDD, you can use a dog back brace to help it heal and walk better.
Make walking easier
How your dog walks and runs in your home also affects their spine health, so you should take steps to make it easier for them. If you have hardwood floors, tile, or linoleum, there’s a more significant risk your dog will slip and fall. Even though your dog may seem unharmed, this type of activity can lead to spinal cord damage.
You can prevent hard falls by putting down throw rugs in areas where the dog plays or walks. Add a mat to their feeding area to prevent them from slipping on water spills. Look for other slip and fall hazards that you can alter to make your home safer for your dog.
Reduce neck and back stress
You can take steps to limit stress on your dog’s neck and back. One thing you can do is buy a raised feeding platform. Elevating your dog’s food and water bowls allows it to eat and drink without hunching over.
You also can improve your dog’s bedding with a memory foam mattress. The memory foam greats a firmer surface and buffers joints to help your dog sleep.
Finally, be sure your dog gets enough exercise. Helping your dog stay physically fit will prevent weight gain that adds stress to the spine.
Symptoms of IVDD
Even after you take these steps to promote better spine health in your dog, you should be observant of the symptoms of IVDD. If you notice that your dog’s body seems stiff or that they seem to be dragging their legs, take them to a vet for an examination. X-rays can help diagnose IVDD before the condition worsens.
Common signs of intervertebral disc disease include anxious behavior, sensitivity to touch, loss of bladder or bowel control, limb paralysis, muscle spasms, reduced appetite or movement, hunched back, and rear leg pain. Breeds most commonly affected by IVDD include American cocker spaniels, dachshunds, beagles, Pekingese, basset hounds, and Shih Tzus.
Final thoughts on IVDD
However, IVDD can affect any dog breed. Monitor your pup for warning signs and take action immediately if you believe your dog shows IVDD symptoms.
Lizzie Howard is a Colorado native who after graduating from the University of Colorado spends her time as a freelance writer. When Lizzie isn’t writing, she enjoys going on hikes, baking for her friends and family, and spending time with her beloved yellow lab, Sparky.