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I have heard of IVDD, but what does it mean?

Dachshund lying on bed


IVDD stands for Intervertebral Disc Disease, a medical condition that primarily affects the spine, specifically the discs. The spine is important because it supports the weight and movement of the body. Intervertebral discs are cushion-like structures that sit between the vertebrae (bones) of the spine and act as shock absorbers.

When the cushion-like discs between the vertebrae of the spine bulge or burst into the space containing the spinal cord, IVDD occurs. This can cause pain, weakness, nerve damage and even paralysis. IVDD is most commonly seen in the neck or lower back, also known as a slipped, herniated or bulging disc.

Many things can trigger IVDD, including injury, age, genetics and obesity, but it is particularly common in certain breeds of dogs, including Dachshunds, Corgis and French bulldogs.

Symptoms of IVDD

The degeneration or herniation of intervertebral discs can cause the following symptoms:

  • pain, ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain

  • behavioural changes, such as not wanting to jump, sleeping, being snappy or hiding

  • weakness in one or both hind legs, lameness or wobbling

  • difficulty walking, may drag their limbs or have an unsteady gait.

  • in severe cases, there may be urinary or faecal incontinence due to compression of the nerves that control these functions.

  • dogs with IVDD in the neck, weakness or lameness in one or both front legs and a reluctance to move the neck.

Types of IVDD

The severity of IVDD can vary, and it may manifest as an acute episode or progress gradually over time. There are two main types of disease that could affect the intervertebral disc, each causing a disc to press painfully against the spinal cord, namely:

  • Hansen type 1, occurs when the disc hardens due to progressive degeneration, helping to make compression impossible. As the centre of the disc hardens, when a dog jumps or has a sudden impact, the disc can move outwards, pushing upwards into the spinal cord and surrounding nerve. This is known as a herniation and causes compression and pinching of the spinal cord, resulting in a sudden sharp pain with varying degrees of reduced nerve function.

  • Hansen type 2, occurs when the thick fibres around the disc slowly collapse over time and push upwards, causing long-term pain. The degenerative process is slower, progressing over a period of months to years, with the effects of the disc material pressing on the spinal cord and nerves.

Hansen's type 1 is most commonly found in Dachshunds and other similar breeds with the same body structure, while type 2 is most commonly found in German Shepherds and other large breeds.

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