Pet's Health Library

Intervertebral Disc Disease

The spine of a dog is made up of bones called vertebrae. These bones have a central hollow area through which the spinal cord runs. Between the vertebrae are soft cushions called discs. They have a softer center (nucleus) and a firm outer casing (annulus). Occasionally in dogs, the nucleus can burst through the annulus putting pressure on the spinal cord. This can result in clinical signs varying from neck or back pain to weakness and paralysis of the hind limbs and possibly forelimbs. Dogs that are more mildly affected will often respond to medical management including rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and muscle relaxants. Patients with more severe signs often require surgical intervention where the nucleus is removed from the spinal canal, relieving pressure on the spinal cord. In many cases, the more severe cases can require emergency surgery. Should your pet show evidence of a sudden onset of hind limb weakness, we advise that you contact your veterinarian or an emergency facility immediately.

Patients with more severe signs often require surgical intervention where the nucleus is removed from the spinal canal, relieving pressure on the spinal cord. Following surgery we may recommend several rehabilitation exercises in order to improve function and prevent muscle atrophy. The following links are provided to give instruction on these exercises if they have been recommended for your pet.

Hind limb strengthening
Hind limb withdrawal
Range of motion
Weight shifting