4. Intervertebral Disc Disease
Most people think of intervertebral disc disease, or “IVDD,” as a condition that happens in small dogs like Daschunds, French bulldogs and Beagles. With these breeds, the progression from walking, to pain to paraesis (weakness) to paralysis tends to happen generally quickly (hours to days). It happens because the disc pushes into the spinal cord and interrupts the message traveling from the brain to the legs. It is different than DM, in that there is pain involved along the spine.
Larger breeds can also be affected, such as Labradors, German Shepherd Dogs and Doberman Pinschers. The difference in larger dogs, is the onset of symptoms tends to be much more gradual happening over days, weeks or even months. Because the symptoms tend to happen more gradually, it can be easy to overlook a neurological cause to back leg weakness. However, because the message from the spinal cord is still being interrupted, the back legs can still be weak, drag or even collapse.
With either type of IVDD, if the pressure on the spinal cord is not relieved, eventually the muscles in the back legs will start to lose strength and size because they are no longer working. If you don’t use it you lose it. If the message can be restored, the muscle strength can be saved or rebuilt.
The problem with IVDD: disruption of the nerve messages to the back legs which can eventually lead to a real loss of strength in the muscles.