your IVDD dog should not see the
written for Dodgerslist by
Andrew Isaacs, DVM Diplomate ACVIM (Neurology
Jared Galle, DVM Diplomate ACVIM (Neurology)
updated July 2015
caution should be exercised when
considering chiropractic and VOM therapy
for a chondrodystrophic dog (Dachshund,
Beagle, Basset Hound, Shih Tzu, Pekingese,
Lhasa Apso, etc.) with clinical signs
suggestive of intervertebral disk disease
is especially true in those with neurologic
deficits (knuckling over paws, weak, wobbly,
paralysis) because it could aggravate an
existing disk herniation. While this is
a controversial topic, you should be educated
about IVDD in chondrodystrophic breeds and the
risks associated with chiropractic therapy.
There is a significant difference between a
chondrodystrophic dog with a herniated disk
and a human with a "bad disk", “slipped disk”,
or “bulging disk”. Two important
differences are dogs’ anatomies and that dogs
do not understand “take it easy and rest for a
couple of weeks”. A poor understanding
of these differences often results in dogs
being treated with human recommendations,
which can lead to catastrophic results.
Several questions should be answered when
determining if chiropractic therapy is an
appropriate treatment for a chondrodystrophic
dog with IVDD.
A thorough neurologic exam and advanced
imaging of the spine (MRI/CT/myelogram) helps
answer these questions.
- Is the dog showing neurologic
signs or deficits?
- How much disk material has
- Is the spinal cord compressed?
Patients suspected of having a herniated disk
that exhibit neurologic deficits should be
examined by a specialist (neurologist or
surgeon) before any chiropractic adjustment is
done. Neurologic deficits indicate that
the nerve fibers in the spinal cord are not
working correctly. This commonly occurs
with a herniated disk that compresses the
spinal cord. The severity of the
neurologic deficits does not indicate the
amount of herniated disk material or the
degree of spinal cord compression.
Therefore, the risk with performing a
chiropractic adjustment on these dogs is that
it could cause more disk material to herniate
and further compress the spinal cord.
This could lead to a deterioration in
neurologic function (ie. weaker, paralyzed),
necessitating emergency surgery.
Advanced imaging of the spine helps answer
questions #2 and #3. Imaging confirms
whether a disk has herniated, how much disk
has herniated, and if the spinal cord is
compressed. Chiropractic therapy may be
safely recommended if a herniated disk can be
eliminated as the cause for the clinical
signs. Chiropractic therapy would not be
recommended if the patient has a herniated
disk and if the spinal cord is compressed.
An important point concerning chiropractic
therapy as a treatment for IVDD is that a lack
of neurologic deficits does not exclude spinal
cord compression. We have seen several
chondrodystrophic breeds that present with
back pain as the only sign and have
significant spinal cord compression on an
MRI. Therefore, we do not recommend
chiropractic therapy in chondrodystrophic dogs
that present with back pain alone for fear of
causing more disk to herniate.
how should chondrodystrophic dogs
with suspected IVDD be treated?
Ideally, a neurologic examination and
diagnostic work-up should be done if a
herniated disk is suspected or if the patient
has neurologic deficits. If the MRI or CAT
Scan shows severe spinal cord compression,
surgery to remove the herniated disk material
is recommended. This facilitates a
quicker and more complete recovery. If
imaging does not show severe spinal cord
compression, medical management (crate rest,
medications) may be recommended. If advanced
imaging and/or surgery is not feasible,
medical management can be attempted. However,
chiropractic therapy is NOT an advisable
component of medical management for a
chondrodystrophic dog with clinical signs
suggestive IVDD because of the risk of
worsening an existing herniated disk.