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Depending on the severity of the damage to the spinal cord, treatment can range from conservative to surgical. Conservative care usually includes treatment with drugs such as steroids and anti-inflammatories to reduce the swelling of the cord and reduce pain. The dog must also be kept confined in a crate or cage to prevent further damage from occurring for up to six weeks. After a period of resting, he may gradually return to normal activity.
If the damage is too severe and the dog is paralyzed or incontinent, conservative treatment may not be enough. In these cases, emergency surgery is needed to open up the space. This is done by removing a portion of the bony vertebrae over the spinal cord (laminectomy). Even after surgery, however, the dog may not recover fully.
Most of the animals with IVDD have spasms of the back muscles. Treatment for this symptom usually includes heat and massage techniques along with medications. Commonly used medications include diazepam and methocarbamol. Diazepam is a muscle relaxant which is also used to calm an animal and treat convulsions. Methocarbamol is another muscle relaxant effective in treating muscle spasms caused by IVDD. It acts directly on the nervous system instead of on the muscles themselves.
Many of the dogs that have a mild to moderate case of IVDD will get feeling back in their legs and walk again. In addition, those that undergo surgery have a better chance of recovery if they are operated soon after initial diagnosis. Others recover but have subsequent bouts with IVDD if other discs burst later in life.
Rehabilitation of animals post-surgery is important to help dogs regain function and speed recovery. The quality of life for these animals can be good if given proper nursing care. Despite this, some dogs need a special cart (like a wheelchair for pets) made for them to be mobile and active again.
In breeds that are predisposed to this disease, keeping them at a lower weight will help reduce the stress on their backbone and neck. Walking with a harness will keep stress off the neck, too, especially if the dog tends to pull on the leash. He or she should also have steps or ramps set up to get up on furniture and beds, as well as a quality diet to maintain optimum health.
Because of the congenital nature of this disease, your veterinarian will most likely recommend against breeding dogs with IVDD.
A bundle of fibers that are used in the process of sending impulses through the body
A picture that is taken of the spinal cord after dye is injected; may also be used to take a count of white blood cells
The removal of the lamina as a method of relieving pain and pressure on the spine
Any type of pain or tenderness or lack of soundness in the feet or legs of animals