IVDD is caused by the degeneration of one or more intervertebral discs that function as cushions between the vertebral bones of the spine. Degeneration results in the ossification or hardening and herniation of the disc. When this happens, there is pressure exerted on the spinal cord running along the vertebral column. Since the spinal cord is a highly sensitive tissue, any compression even though how minimal may result in the manifestation of nervous signs.
Minimal compression on the spinal cord may be manifested by mild pain which may be temporary. However, permanent paralysis may arise if the spinal cord is severely compressed. The most common sites of spinal compressions include the region of the lower back (thoraco-lumbar) and the neck region (cervical).
In dogs, there are two forms of IVDD which have been identified.
Type 1 has been observed in small dog breeds such as the Basset Hound, Beagle, Pekingese, and Lhasa Apso. These breeds of dogs are considered chondrodystrophic as a result of an abnormality in their cartilage development giving rise to characteristically short but stout bodies. Type 1 IVDD is often manifested early when the puppy is about 3-6 months of age and may occur along the different parts of the spine at different times. Type I IVDD is common in chondrodystrophic breeds of dogs. There are also semi-chondrodystrophic breeds which are prone to developing the disease.
Among the different breeds of dogs with high risks of developing any type of IVDD, Doberman pinschers are the only breed of dogs which are non-chondrodystrophic but are predisposed to the disease.
Type II IVDD is a rare form of the disease which is linked to the fibrous degeneration of the intervertebral disc and usually affects older large breed dogs. This is a milder version compared to Type I IVDD and usually occurs only on a certain region of the spine. Unlike the first type, Type II IVDD does not demonstrate a breed disposition.
IVDD can successfully be treated with a good therapeutic regimen which includes adequate rest (a month or so) and the use of anti-inflammatory drugs. This mode of treatment is generally effective when the disease is still at the early stages when severe chronic pain and nervous signs have not yet been exhibited.
Dogs which are severely affected require surgery however the severity and extent of the condition will have to be assessed first, particularly when paralysis is not present, before surgery is recommended.
There are different types of surgical procedures which can be used to correct IVDD however this should be undertaken by a boar-certified veterinary surgeon or veterinary neurologist for these are highly delicate procedures.
All dogs diagnosed with IVDD should never be allowed to breed or should be removed from the breeding pool to prevent passing on the defective trait to their offspring.