Ultimate Guide to Preventing IVDD in Dogs: Understanding, Genetics and Treatment Options

As a dog owner, your pet’s health is a top priority. But what if we told you there’s a common spinal disease, Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD), that could sneak up on your furry friend? This condition can lead to pain, difficulty moving, and in severe cases, paralysis. But don’t fret, there are ways to prevent it.

In this article, we’re diving into the world of canine health, specifically focusing on IVDD. We’ll explore what this disease is, the breeds most at risk, and most importantly, how you can take steps to prevent it. So, keep reading if you’re keen on keeping your four-legged friend healthy and happy for years to come.

Key Takeaways

  • Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a common spinal disorder in dogs that, if left unaddressed, can lead to paralysis. Understanding IVDD is the first step towards prevention.
  • Maintaining an optimal weight in your pet alleviates unnecessary pressure on the spine and reduces the risk of IVDD. Regular activity, such as controlled exercises, supports this approach.
  • Preventive measures like opting for dog-friendly furniture, discouraging jumping habits, and offering a balanced diet rich in nutrients also significantly mitigate the chances of IVDD.
  • Regular health checks facilitate early detection of IVDD and other potential health issues, providing opportunities for immediate treatment.
  • Certain dog breeds—including Dachshunds, Beagles, Bassett Hounds, and French Bulldogs—are genetically predisposed to IVDD. Recognizing breed susceptibility is vital for targeted care.
  • Treatment options for IVDD range from surgical interventions and medication therapy to assistive devices and physiotherapy, each of which should be discussed with a veterinary professional.

Understanding IVDD in Dogs

Intervertebral Disc Disease, commonly referred to as IVDD, is a debilitating condition that you can’t ignore if you’re a dog owner. Dachshunds, Beagles, Basset Hounds, French Bulldogs, and Corgis are example breeds that are often predisposed to this spinal disorder. However, it doesn’t exclude other breeds from its radar.

So, what is IVDD? In simple terms, it involves an issue with the discs tucked between the vertebrae of your dog’s spinal column. These discs have two main components: a sturdy exterior and a gel-like interior. With IVDD, the disc degenerates, hardens, and eventually ruptures, causing the gel inside to escape onto the spinal nerves. This leads to severe pain and neurological problems, like difficulty walking or even paralysis.

As per the report from American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS), the onset of symptoms can be sudden or take a more progressive path over time. Mild symptoms might showcase a reluctance to jump, reduced activity, an arched back and whimpering. As it worsens, they may collapse and be unable to walk. Always be cautious and don’t take these signs lightly.

To diagnose IVDD, veterinary professionals utilize CT scans or MRI technology to identify the affected disc(s). Post diagnosis, the line of treatment varies according to the severity of IVDD. It could range from medication, physical therapy to surgical intervention.

Understanding IVDD adequately arms you with the knowledge to take preventive measures which, gradually introduced in your dog’s routine, can significantly lower the chance of your furry friend enduring this disease. Next, let’s dive into how you can minimize the risk of IVDD in dogs.

How to Prevent IVDD in Dogs

Prevention of IVDD in dogs isn’t guaranteed, nevertheless, adhering to the following recommendations decreases the disease’s likelihood:

  1. Maintain Optimal Weight: Help your dog maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts additional pressure on the spine, augmenting IVDD risk. Regular exercise, further, contributes to overall spinal health while preventing obesity. For example, game-based exercises or brisk walks aid in weight management.
  2. Opt for Dog-Friendly Furniture: Discourage jumping habits in your dog, especially breed types prone to IVDD. This action involves avoiding high furniture and providing low-rise alternatives or dog-friendly ramps and steps. Such modifications to your living space reduce the strain on your dog’s spine.
  3. Prefer Controlled Exercises: Engage dogs, notably the susceptible breeds, in controlled physical activities. They’re less likely to injure their spine during leash walks and structured play, compared to uncontrolled activities such as fast running, catching Frisbee, or performing agility tasks.
  4. Choose a Balanced Diet: Feed your dog a balanced diet rich in nutrients that support spine health, osteoarthritis prevention, and healthy weight management. Veterinary professionals can provide insight into the best dietary options based on breed, weight, and age.
  5. Implement Regular Health Checks: Regular health checks are essential for early detection of any irregularities, not only IVDD but other potential health problems. They afford treatment opportunities before the condition’s escalation, if identified.

While these tactics can help reduce the risk of IVDD in dogs, it’s worth noting that genetic predisposition plays a significant role in this condition. Therefore, importance lies in potential dog owners recognizing breed susceptibility to IVDD prior to adoption. For example, some breeds, such as the Dachshund and the Corgi, exhibit a heightened likelihood of developing IVDD.

Prevention doesn’t hinge on one method but incorporates a multifaceted approach packed with targeted care, correct exercise, and frequent check-ups to guarantee your dog lives a healthy, happy life.

Best Breeds at Risk of IVDD

Understanding susceptibility by breed aids in early detection and prevention of IVDD in dogs. Generally, breeds with characteristic long backs and short legs tend to show an increased predisposition.

For instance, Dachshunds demonstrate the highest vulnerability, exhibiting a 25% likelihood of developing this condition. Likened for their unique physique, these dogs unfortunately carry one of the highest genetic risks for IVDD among all breeds.

Next in line, Beagles form another vulnerable group. Accounting for about 15% of IVDD cases, these lively and friendly breeds often surprise dog parents with such susceptibility. Equipped with this knowledge, you can ensure these popular dogs receive care tailored to their unique needs.

Similarly, Shih Tzus, often celebrated for their adorable, lion-like appearance, sadly show a higher-than-average occurrence of IVDD. These toy dogs, while small in stature, require an extra dose of caution when handling to prevent spinal injuries.

Pekingese breeds, known for their compact size and a thick double coat, also show a noteworthy risk, emphasizing the need for careful handling and weight control.

Another representative case, the Basset Hound, also joins the club of breeds prone to IVDD. This breed’s unique physique with a large, heavy body on short legs makes them susceptible, necessitating the need for intentional care.

In contrast, breeds like the Labrador Retriever, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers, large and athletic dogs, demonstrate a lower tendency. Yet, it doesn’t negate the possibility, fortifying the need for a preventive approach in all dogs, regardless of breed.

Remember, knowledge is power. By understanding which breeds are prone, you’re better equipped to provide the best preventive care. It further reinforces the importance of maintaining your dog’s optimal weight, ensuring controlled exercise, providing a balanced diet, and keeping up with regular health checks. Spot the early signs, take preventive steps, and keep your furry friend happy and healthy.

The Role of Genetics in IVDD

In your quest to prevent IVDD in dogs, it’s critical to weigh in the significant aspect of genetics. Studies affirm a hereditary component of IVDD, bearing in mind breeds with long backs and short legs are inherently vulnerable to the condition. Notably, research has made significant strides in decoding the correlation between genetics and IVDD. Findings from the Doberman Pincher Genome Project, for instance, suggest a number of genetic markers could be linked to IVDD susceptibility.

Disc degeneration, a primary cause of IVDD, shows a marked genetic association. For instance, a genetic mutation in the FGF4 gene has been identified in breeds like Beagles, Dachshunds, and French Bulldogs, directly correlating with an elevated risk of disc herniation. DNA tests rapidly become the norm for early detection of such tell-tale signs of impending IVDD.

Acknowledging the role of inheritance, breeders can take proactive steps to curb the incidence of IVDD. It’s imperative for them to use DNA tests and make well-informed decisions keeping a potential carrier’s genetic health into consideration before mating them. As a pet owner, getting your dog tested negates the risk and apprehension bundled with an impending IVDD diagnosis, allowing for better preparedness and possibly preventative measures.

To put it in perspective, certain breeds such as Shih Tzus, Pekingese, and Bassett Hounds exhibit more vulnerability owing to their genetic makeup. On the other end of the spectrum, breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers aren’t as susceptible to IVDD. Hence, the genetics factor into the risk quotient considerably, further stressing the importance of genetic screening and tailored preventive measures.

Moreover, recognizing the genetic influences doesn’t exclude the significance of lifestyle factors. Even though genetics impose an increased IVDD risk on certain breeds, regular weight management, providing a balanced diet, opting for dog-friendly furniture, and committing to regular health checks for your dog persist as paramount aspects in the holistic prevention of IVDD.

Thus the role of genetics in IVDD is multi-pronged. From signaling predispositions to guiding preventive techniques, it’s a key pillar of understanding in the comprehensive control of the disease. Ensuring a good understanding of this genetic influence can equip you with the tools to offer the best possible care for your furry friend, irrespective of their breed or genetic makeup.

Treatment Options for IVDD: When Prevention Is Not Enough

Despite steps taken to prevent IVDD, it’s unavoidably present in some instances. Early detection, particularly where genetic predisposition exists, aids in management, but treatment options become vital when prevention falls short.

Surgical Intervention ranks high among treatment methods. Vets use various techniques, based on the progression of the disease, such as hemi-laminectomy (removal of a portion of the spinal column to relieve pressure) and fenestration (procedure to remove disc material). These methods offer the most direct approach to relieving spinal cord compression, bringing significant pain relief and potential for recovery.

Medication Therapy incorporates pain management and inflammation reduction. NSAIDs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, offer dual-action relief, minimizing pain and swelling. Steroids might also be prescribed as a more potent approach to reducing severe inflammation. Muscle relaxants help alleviate muscle spasms often associated with IVDD. It’s vital to administer these medications under vets’ supervision, considering potential side effects and inter-drug reactions.

Physiotherapy forms a part of non-surgical intervention or postoperative recovery. It includes techniques like massage, low impact exercises, and hydrotherapy. Utilization of these methods aims to restore mobility, strengthen supporting musculature, and enhance overall muscle control.

Acupuncture brings an alternative treatment or augmentation to conventional methods. This traditional Chinese practice uses thin needles at specific body points, aiding pain reduction and encouraging blood flow. Several studies have suggested potential benefits of acupuncture in managing IVDD symptoms.

Assistive Devices, such as harnesses or wheelchairs, prove helpful when mobility becomes compromised. They provide support, allowing dogs to remain active and engage in exercise, essential for maintaining good mental health and quality of life.

Remember, each dog responds differently to treatment. Consultation with a veterinary professional remains key in deciding the appropriate course of action for your pet’s specific circumstances. Proper diagnosis, informed decision-making, and ongoing veterinary support form indispensable cogs in managing IVDD.


Arming yourself with knowledge about IVDD is your first defense. Know that genetics play a significant role, especially in breeds with long backs and short legs. Don’t underestimate the value of genetic testing for early detection and informed breeding. Remember, treatment isn’t one-size-fits-all. From surgical interventions to physiotherapy, acupuncture, and assistive devices, there are options. Consulting with a veterinary professional for a tailored treatment plan is essential. With the right approach, you can manage IVDD effectively and ensure your furry friend’s health and happiness.

What is Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) in dogs?

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a condition in dogs that affects the cushioning discs between the bones of the spine. Depending on the severity, it can lead to pain, difficulty moving, or paralysis.

Which dog breeds are most affected by IVDD?

IVDD most commonly affects breeds with long backs and short legs. Some of these breeds include Dachshunds, Beagles, Corgis, and Bulldogs, highlighting the role of genetics in the development of this condition.

How is IVDD diagnosed in dogs?

IVDD is commonly diagnosed through a combination of a thorough physical examination, patient history, and imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI, or CT scans.

What are the treatment options available for dogs with IVDD?

Treatment options for dogs with IVDD include medication therapies with NSAIDs or steroids, surgical interventions like hemi-laminectomy and fenestration, physiotherapy, acupuncture, and assistive devices like harnesses or wheelchairs.

What is the role of genetics in IVDD?

Genetics play a significant role in IVDD. It has been found that certain genetic markers can increase the risk of developing the condition, particularly in breeds with specific physical characteristics.

Is there any preventive measure for IVDD?

Preventive measures largely involve managing risk factors such as obesity, regular exercise, and avoiding activities that stress the spine. Genetic testing is also emphasized for early detection and making informed breeding decisions.