What is invertebral disc disease
in dogs?

Invertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a condition where one of the fibrous cushioning discs between vertebrae ruptures or bursts, causing it to press on surround nerves and resulting in pain and inflammation.

It most commonly affects dogs, although cats can sometimes be affected. It usually happens as a result of age-related degeneration, but certain types of dog can be more prone to it, such as Dachshunds, Basset Hounds and Shih Tzus.

What are the symptoms of IVDD?

The most common sign of intervertebral disease in dogs is pain. This can be apparent in either the back or the neck, and dogs will yelp when touched or during movement. They will also adopt an abnormal posture.

Other symptoms include:

  • Shivering
  • Unwillingness to move
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Hunched neck or back
  • Lack of appetite
  • Difficulty walking
  • Paralysis

If your vet thinks your pet may have IVDD, they’ll most likely arrange for an MRI or CT scan so they can effectively diagnose the condition and locate the source.

What’s the treatment?

The type of treatment used to treat invertebral disc disease in dogs depends on the severity of the condition.

Conservative management – This is a type of non-surgical treatment that usually involves anti-inflammatories and steroid. The is aimed to manage pain and reduce swelling.

Surgical treatment – Where the slipped disc is considered to be severe, spinal surgery will likely be necessary. This kind of surgery involves drilling a hole and removing part of the disc, effectively ‘decompressing’ it.

Rehabilitation – Your specialist may recommend physiotherapy or hydrotherapy in addition to other treatment. Rehabilitation can help with strengthening as well as pain management.


vet surgeon performing procedure


What’s the prognosis?

The outlook depends on how severe the condition, and how much of the spinal cord has been affected. Unfortunately, there is only a 50/50 chance of paralysed animals regaining full movement.  However, those with less severe symptoms often go on to make a full recovery, and they’re unlikely to have the condition return.

If you suspect your pet might have invertebral disc disease, just get in touch and we’ll be happy to help. If you’re a referring vet, it’s easy to start a referral case.