Dr. Julie Damron

Tips on caring for your pets from the Veterinarians and staff of Sierra Veterinary Clinic in Stockton, California.

Intervertebral disc disease in animals

Any dog can develop intervertebral disc disease. In between each back bone there is a soft material that cushions the space between each vertebra, allowing for movement, and preventing the bones from rubbing against each other. As the body ages, the pad of fibrocartilage tissue becomes much harder, making the disc more prone to rupture.

Some dog breeds, especially Dachshunds, Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus, Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, Pekingeses, and Doberman Pinchers are prone to this problem. The discs in the Dachshund age prematurely due to water loss, cellular necrosis, and calcification. As a result, making the material becomes more brittle and prone to breaking apart. When material oozes out of the discs, it can put pressure on the spinal cord causing a wide range of problems from limited activity, stiffness, pain, hunched back, crying out, inability to urinate or defecate, paresis-partial loss of movement, to paralysis-loss of muscle function, full loss of movement. This problem also occurs in felines; but is much less common.

Problems typically occur when these pets reach the age of 3-7 years. The disc rupture can occur anywhere along the spine from the neck to the hind end; however, the middle of the back is the most common location. Symptoms often develop after some type of traumatic activity such as tripping in a hole, jumping a lot, falling, or intensive play with another dog.

Disc disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, a physical exam, nerve testing, x-rays and sometimes advanced imaging such as a myelogram or MRI/CT scan.

Treatment consists of rest/cage confinement, anti-inflammatories, pain medication, muscle relaxants; and can also include hospitalization and surgery. In patients with severe paralysis, a referral to a neurologist is often recommended. At a specialty facility, advanced imaging can identify the location of the spinal compression and the severity. During surgery, the extruded disc material can be removed from around the spinal cord. Removing the pressure from the spinal cord helps to improve the paralysis.

Some patients respond well to conservative treatment, and others require surgery. Not all patients are able to return to full function, even with surgery. Prognosis for return to normal mobility depends on the degree of spinal cord compression and the length of time of the compression. Patients that loose deep pain sensation are much less likely to return to full activity. The sooner that a surgical repair is done, the better the prognosis. Also it is fairly common to have relapses in animals that do not have a surgical repair.

If your dog is a breed that is prone to intervertebral disc disease, there are several things that you can do to help prevent Intervertebral disc disease from happening. First, limit jumping up and down for your canine companion. If he or she is allowed on the furniture, it is best to lift him or her up, or set up stairs or levels for your buddy to use. The jumping is jarring to the discs, and can promote rupture. Any activity such as rough play with other dogs, especially larger dogs, can also lead to a ruptured disc. Avoid playing in areas where the ground is uneven.

Keep you buddy at a healthy weight. Obesity puts extra pressure on the whole body, but also on the discs, making them more likely to rupture. Routine exercise will not only promote a healthy weight for your companion; but it will also help to keep the muscling strong along your companion’s back. This puts less stress on the spine. Nutritional supplements such as Glucosamine can help to make the surface of bone and cartilage healthier and smoother, and can make the discs more pliable. Not all Glucosamine products are considered equal. Sierra Veterinary clinic offers Dasaquin. The company that manufactures this product conducts a high level of testing to insure that your pet is able to digest and absorb the stated levels of Glucosamine.

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Monday, 23 October 2017