IVDD, or intervertebral disc disease, is an injury to the disc in the back, causing compression on the spinal cord. There are two types of IVDD – Type 1 and Type 2.

Normal Intervertebral disc
Normal Disc

IVDD can happen to dogs of any age. To understand IVDD, it’s best to have a basic understanding of the anatomy of the spine. The spine is made up of multiple bones called vertebrae. In between each vertebrae is a disc. The disc is like a cushion in the spine and absorbs load as well as allowing for movement of the spine. The disc is made up of outer fibrocartilage rings (annulus pulposus) and inner cushion (nucleus pulposus).

IVDD is a degenerative disease that can affects dogs of any age. It occurs when the nucleus pulposus starts to dry out and then pushes into a weakened anulus fibrosis (i.e. the jelly inside the donut starts to escape). This makes the disc more likely to herniate or bulge, and impact the spinal cord leading to neurological signs.

What are the different types of IVDD?

There are two types of IVDD. Recent research has show, that Type 1 and Type 2 IVDD are actually the same thing.

  • Type 1 – this is what is often thought of when discussing IVDD. Typically, these dogs are young to middle age and are small dogs. Breeds commonly affected are Dachshunds, Shih Tzu’s, Pekingese, Chihuahuas and Beagles. It can occur in larger dogs as well. The onset is usually very sudden, very painful and can cause paralysis. The calcified nucleus pulposus (the jelly in the donut) herniates into the spinal cord.
  • Type 2 – usually occurs in middle to older aged dogs. It is often slowly progressing over weeks, months or even years. The annulus fibrosis thickens over time and pushes into the spinal cord. It may or may not be painful and can lead to progressive neurological signs.
IVDD Type I and II
What are the signs and symptoms of IVDD?

We previously covered signs of back pain in another blog. Signs of IVDD can be classified into several categories – pain signs, movement signs and neurological signs.


  • vocalization of pain with certain movements
  • shaking/trembling
  • anxiety
  • panting


  • reluctance to exercise, walk or play
  • may stand with a rounded back or keep their head down


  • Sudden weakness
  • Inability to walk (paralysis)
  • leaking or dribbling urine
  • dragging feet
Dog with neck pain
I think my dog has IVDD…now what?

It is important to start with a trip to the vet. If symptoms have developed suddenly, and are quite severe (i.e. your dog suddenly cannot walk) GO TO THE VET NOW. If your dog has significant deficits, they may require surgery and your vet will help guide you through the options. They may suggest further imaging such as an MRI or CT scan. The vet can also help to rule out other reasons for your dog’s symptoms.

What are the treatment options for IVDD?

Surgery or conservative management are the options for treating IVDD.

Surgery aims to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord and nerves by removing the disc material impacting the spinal cord and/or removing some of the bone around the spinal cord. After surgery, you will be given instructions on how to care for your dog, including initiating rehab to help your dog improve their strength, balance and mobility.

Conservative management should include rehabilitation and not just rest and medication. There are techniques and modalities (like laser) that rehab therapists can use to help the body reduce the herniated disc. An exercise program will also be used to help your dog improve their function.

At Pawsitively Fit, we have worked with many dogs both after surgery for IVDD and with neurological deficits not treated by surgery. If you are wondering if we can help your dog, just ask!

Dog after spinal surgery

Rex had surgery for IVDD. He’s back up and walking and ready to play with his ball!

Does your dog have a IVDD and you are looking for more information about how Pawsitively Fit can help? Click the button below and fill out the form and we will get in touch with you to discuss your unique situation!

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