How to Help Your Dog Survive the Pain of Intervertebral Disc Disease
13 April, 2016
Guest Blog by Lisa Luckenbach of WiggleLess® back braces for dogs
Intervertebral Disc Disease (or IVDD), is a degenerative disease that affects countless dogs at various ages and activity levels. It occurs when discs in the spinal column begin to shift so much so that they protrude outward, pressing against the spinal cord and its nerves. The actual diagnosis can come as a shock.
There are two types of IVDD, which can affect both young and old dogs.
Type I can affect dogs at any age, and is mostly seen in (but not limited to) chrondrodystrophic dogs, or dogs bred to be shorter and stockier. (Bassett hounds, Corgis, etc.) This type occurs when a dog’s spine experiences a sudden impact that causes the disc to shift out of place.
Type II is more gradual but the results are the same: pressure on the spinal cord and its nerves caused by a bulging disc. Type II IVDD affects older dogs between the ages of 8 and 15 by its very nature, and isn’t targeted to primarily chrondrodystrophic breeds.
For both types, rest, laser light therapy, anti-inflammatories, and even surgery are the common protocol and can aid in helping to manage, if not completely relieve, dog back pain; however, older dogs suffering from Type I are less likely to bounce back as quickly as younger dogs and are more likely to experience continual back problems.
Emergency room visits, strong medication and complete crate rest are not what most pet parents envision when bringing a puppy home. It is difficult to watch your baby not be able to play and jump around like ‘normal’ dogs, hear them whimper in pain, and watch them have muscle spasms. You want your loved ones to experience a happy, pain free life.
Thankfully, understanding the world of IVDD, and managing the pain our pups can sometimes feel, is becoming easier to do as we learn more and more about this dreaded disease and the many preventative and supportive measures we can take as pet parents. We are also sharing more stories of how we can make strides towards wellness and bring relief to our fur babies.
There is a wealth of helpful advice these days on the web to help you and your little sufferers live a high quality life with IVDD- the key words being HIGH QUALITY LIFE! – below are a few tips, especially helpful during recovery:
Diet – maintain your dog’s healthy weight to reduce stress on their backbone and neck.
Food – moisten kibble or feed them wet food. Chewing can cause stress on the jaw and neck, which can result in pain. Same goes for chew toys or treats. Abstain from these during the recovery period.
Eliminate stress on back and neck – raise food and water bowls so that your dog doesn’t have to bend down to eat or drink; keep the crate your pup is recovering in at a higher level so that he doesn’t have to raise his head to look at you or his surroundings.
Acupuncture Therapy – this is particularly good for dogs that respond poorly to or cannot tolerate medication. Surgery may not be an option due to health or finances. Acupuncture may be one option to look into, as it regenerates neurons mobilizing stem cell regrowth.
Laser Light Therapy – although costly, LT has been proven to reduce tenderness, pain and speed up the tissue healing process.
Back support – after a period of recovery, it is important to keep your dog’s back stable and straight. Wearing a back brace puts less pressure on your dog’s spine and may help him or her to have a more enjoyable and normal life.
Environment – lots of love, comfort, warmth, encouragement, and a peaceful environment. Dogs get stressed out just like us humans do. Stress makes it hard to heal!
Your veterinarian will determine the best medical protocol for IVDD and your dog. If your dog is in severe back pain due to IVDD, one or more of the following medications may be prescribed:
Steroids: They are anti-inflammatories and immune system suppressors. They are good especially if given in the vein the first 8 hours or by shot in the muscle, and followed by pills at home. The most commonly used are: prednisone and dexamethasone. Accompany with a stomach protector such as Pepcid (famotidine).
NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs): they are anti-inflammatories, and also have pain killing properties too. They must never be mixed with steroids or the NSAID aspirin. The most commonly used are: Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Previcox or Metacam. Accompany with a stomach protector such as Pepcid (famotidine).
Muscle Relaxers: During a herniation a dog can have nasty muscle spasms. Muscle relaxers help prevent them and they also help keep the dog calm while in crate rest. The most commonly used are: Methocarbamol and Valium.
Pain Killers or Analgesics: They help through the healing period by making your dog more comfortable. The most commonly used are: Tramadol or a Fentanyl patch.
With the right diagnosis and the right treatment, IVDD is manageable, and remembering the simple ingredients it takes to make your dog feel loved and happy is paramount.
AUTHOR BIO: Lisa Luckenbach has developed WiggleLess® back braces for dogs that are overweight and need extra support, elderly with aching backs, diagnosed with IVDD-related back problems, or overly active and can benefit from the structure a dog back brace provides. In addition to running WiggleLess®, Lisa is a registered yoga instructor, licensed massage therapist, public speaker, ordained minister, and breast cancer survivor. She shares her home with her husband and three spunky, adopted dogs, Ryder (Cocker Spaniel), LaVerne (Schnauzer/Doxie mix), and Chai (Doxie/Jack russell mix). Visit WiggleLess®.com to learn more about Lisa and her back brace for dogs.