French Bulldogs ~ Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD)


Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD), sometimes referred to as a slipped or herniated disk, refers to a syndrome of pain and neurological problems that accompany degeneration of one or more intervertebral disks. These disks are pillow-like pads that act as shock-absorbers between adjoining vertebrae – the bones that make up the backbone or spine. Intervertebral disks can become displaced, deteriorate, collapse, bulge out (protrude), rupture or herniate in dogs as a result of gradual degeneration due to conformational abnormalities, obesity, genetics, repetitive trauma or other factors. This compresses the spinal cord and nerves at the damage site. Dogs with IVDD have symptoms ranging from mild pain (lowered head, reluctance to move, stiffness, sensitivity to touch), to severe pain (arched back, lameness, dragging legs, inability to stand, crying when touched or moving, trembling, staggering, collapse), to partial or complete paralysis. IVDD is one of the most common neurological disorders in companion animals and reportedly affects 2% of the domestic dog population.

When disks between vertebrae in the cervical (neck) or thoracolumbar (chest and back) areas of the spine degenerate, the inner disk material can protrude or rupture into the spinal canal. This, in turn, can cause localized compression of the spinal cord (called myelopathy) and/or of nerve roots (called radiculopathy) at the site of the disk damage. Two primary forms of IVDD occur in domestic dogs; these are called Hansen Type I and Hansen Type II.

Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) can cause a number of symptoms in domestic dogs, ranging from signs of mild pain to partial or complete paralysis. Most cases fall somewhere in between these two extremes. The signs of IVDD can mimic those of acutely ruptured disks such as from trauma or otherwise, but the causes are very different. IVDD occurs more commonly in certain breeds but can occur in any breed or mix of breeds.

IVDD can be caused by degeneration in the cervical (neck) or thoracolumbar (along the back) areas of the spinal column. Two primary forms of the disease occur in dogs, called Hansen Types I and II intervertebral disk disease. These both involve degeneration of intervertebral disks, but the mechanisms of degeneration and the predisposed breeds are different. Regardless of the form of disk disease, prompt treatment is needed to prevent further damage.Hansen Type I intervertebral disk

The first part of almost any diagnostic protocol is a thorough history and a complete physical examination. When spinal injuries are suspected, a complete neurological examination is warranted. In cases of IVDD, the neurological examination will be consistent with a single, focal lesion in the spinal cord and will help the veterinarian localize the site of injury to a particular section of the spine. However, a neurological examination will not confirm whether intervertebral disk disease

Treatment options range from rest and conservative medical management to surgical intervention. The exact therapeutic protocol will vary depending upon the severity of the disease. In acute cases, pain management and control of inflammation are the first priorities. Corticosteroids or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (but not both at the same time), muscle relaxants, narcotics or other drugs to alleviate inflammation and pain may be recommended by the attending veterinarian, together with strict cage rest.