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Spinal walking – Shortcut Thru IVDD

Shortcut Thru IVDD menu

Walking With Paralyzed Legs

Dogs without deep pain sensation have paralyzed legs. Some of these dogs are able to learn how to use reflexes to spinal walk.

Video shows spinal walking due to the “crossed extensor reflex” in a dog who no longer has deep pain sensation (DPS).

Special thanks for use of the above video clip to Dr. Clemmons, UF Associate Professor Neurology and Neurosurgery Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, U of F and to Buc’s mom, Amy Reynolds, UF Veterinary Neurology Technician

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Dogs without deep pain sensation (DPS) might learn to spinal walk

“Animals have locomotor automatism, meaning that the basics of walking are hardwired into the spinal cord of domestic species.The brainstem adds the remaining ingredients for rudimentary, voluntary locomotor activity. The cerebellum adds smoothness while the cerebral cortex provides behavioral direction.”  The Neurologic Examination. R.M. Clemmons, DVM, PhD

While a dog with severe spinal cord injury does not have deep pain sensation meaning their legs can no longer communicate with the brain, some figure out how to “walk” by using their rear limb reflexes. They learn to swing their legs into position underneath the body. The leg movements look jerky or motorized. The “walk” is in a straight line, as the brain is not involved to tell the legs to change direction to avoid falling.

IVDD is a disease of TIME – Shortcut Thru IVDD

Understand "TIME" if your dog would have a future disc episode.

 Plant a seed in your mind now.   Listen to the audio file below▼

Dogs born with IVDD need TIME to heal during a disc episode

IVDD disc disease can be lived with. Owners educated about their dog’s disease understand how to best care for them. Many dogs live long happy lives despite IVDD!  Do listen to the audio above to learn more about TIME with a disc episode.

Hope for all IVDD warriors – Shortcut Thru IVDD

There’s Hope! IVDD Warriors Do Live Years Having Fun

There is good hope for IVDD warriors. Even paralyzed dogs can look forward to many years of play, chasing balls, looking for critters, and going for walks.

Olive is an IVDD warrior

She loves all the different things her family does. She loves the beach. The hope is for all IVDD dogs to have as much fun with their families.

Ruby has been paralyzed since she was 4 years old

With a wheelchair accessory, nothing to stop this gal from joining in on winter activities!

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There is good hope for all IVDD warriors to enjoy years of joining in with family activities. Many dogs do recover the ability to walk anywhere from weeks to a year whether after a surgery or with conservative treatment.

While waiting on more nerve repair to happen, dogs can use a wheelchair to play, have fun chasing balls, looking for critters, and going for walks. Wheelchairs are used for a few hours a day – not all day long. Padded garments help to protect when scooting indoors.

Clark’s wheelchair easily handles new fallen snow. For over a decade of summers his cart has made it possible to walk many a trail enjoying all there is to sniff.

IVDD slipped disc back pain -Shortcut Thru IVDD

Indicators Of A Back Pain

Symptoms for an IVDD slipped disc are not just back pain but can include loss of nerve function in the legs and bladder control.

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One or any symptom: back pain, nerve function loss:

  1. General indications of an IVDD slipped (herniated) disc pain is back pain (shivering/trembling, not wanting to move, not wanting to eat, yelping, tightened tummy, nose to ground if a neck disc).
  2. Weakness or loss of ability to move legs. (dragging nails, wobbly walking).
  3. Emergency situation: loss of complete leg use or bladder/bowel control such as finding urine or poop in the bedding or leaks when you pick up the dog. Rapid loss of function in a matter of hours is an indicator of an emergency.

JUMP to the Emergency FAQ

If the above  symptoms currently describes your dog. Take quick action to get your dog to a vet, now!  

EMERGENCY FAQ  page:  https://dodgerslist.com/emergency-faq/


IVDD slipped disc back pain examples

Disc material escapes a torn (herniated) or slipped disc & presses on the spinal nerve cord to cause back pain. A herniated disc can result in severe nerve damage (leg paralysis and loss of bladder control). NOTE: human spine shown. The disc herniation process is similar in dogs.  

Illustration with permission of Spine Universe 

What is disc disease? -Shortcut Thru IVDD

What Is Disc Disease?

IVDD is a disease and not an injury.  IVDD disc disease hardens discs  prematurely. Disc disease is thought to have genetic causes. The trauma to the spinal cord results from hardening of the discs due to the disease.

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IVDD is a disease and not an injury

IVDD causes discs to age earlier in life. Discs loose moisture and harden. The discs can no longer cushion the vertebrae along the spine. IVDD occurs in breeds such as dachshunds, poodles, corgis, beagles, but it is not limited to just those breeds.

If a dog has IVDD, a disc problem can happen at any age. When the disc has weakened to a certain degree, it will herniate. You may or may not be able to pinpoint a specific incident as causing the start of symptoms. Many dogs that have IVDD have their first episode typically between the ages of 3-7.

Disc disease may be an ongoing, progressive disease for the rest of the dog’s life. Some dogs have only one episode others have multiple episodes over their life time.

Prevention and being educated to catch symptoms early is important.

No stairs, no jumping up and down, use ramps, always attach a leash to a harness.

As vertebrae in the spine move they can increase pressure on a weakened disc causing a tear in the tough outer ring. Degnerated discs can bulge into spinal cord area, or they can rupture, aka slip, prolapse, herniate, as shown in above illustration. Bulges can cause mild symptoms of pain or wobbly walking. More severe disc damage causes paralysis of legs and loss of bladder control.

Illustration reprinted with permission by the copyright owner, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, from the Atlas of Veterinary Clinical Anatomy

Emergency action- Shortcut Thru IVDD


Time is the spinal cord’s enemy. Hours matter. Crate immediately and get vet help. Too much movement could cause paralyzed legs.

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The clock ticks to get vet help!

Crate immediately. Limit the vertebrae and spine from moving. Movement causes the disc to leak and push more disc material onto the spinal cord. The result can be pain and paralysis.

  • With haste get to a vet knowledgeable in IVDD.
  • Immediately transport your dog carefully in a crate padded to keep the spine quiet.
  • Your vet if highly suspicious of different possible disease than IVDD, he would  try to rule out it out.  Other diseases can look like IVDD. Your vet may calll for an  an x-ray or maybe blood tests to help rule out a high suspicion of other than IVDD.
  • X-rays do not prove an IVDD disc episode. A hands on neurological exam will typically help the vet pinpoint the likelihood if a disc herniation in making his diagnosis.

Comparison of conservative treatment vs. a surgery

When, how to monitor neuro function loss, financial info: https://dodgerslist.com/surgery-vs-conservative/

Two disc episode treatment options – Shortcut Thru IVDD

IVDD Treatment Options

There are two treatment options for a disc herniation:  non-surgical with meds and rest OR surgery and rest.

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Non-surgical Conservative Treatment of medications and STRICT rest

Rusty recovers after 8 weeks of STRICT conservative rest.  After the disc has healed, then if needed,  at home or in-clinic PT to help relearn the art of walking.

Surgical therapy

Daisy one day post op. Often post-op rest of 4 or 6 weeks is prescribed. Post-0- rest often will include, if needed,  at home or at a clinic PT to relearn the art of walking.

Preventative procedures

  1. Fenestration
  2. Laser Disc Ablation (LDA)

Discharge day

NOTE: Develop a list of questions to take with you so you don’t forget to ask the vet everything.   Questions for discharge day

WARNING: Avoid chiropractic therapy with an IVDD dog.

Rehabilitation therapy – Shortcut Thru IVDD

Rehabilitation Therapy

Nerves are the slowest part of the body to heal. It is better to think in terms of months rather than days/weeks.

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Nerves are the slowest part of the body to heal. It is better to think in terms of months rather than days/weeks. Patience is needed. Acupuncture and laser therapy is to stimulate nerve regeneration. Only after conservative crate rest is complete, water therapy and other physical therapy can be started by a clinic or rehabilitation in the home. Massage and Passive Therapy Exercises After surgery, PT/rehabilitation can begin as soon as the surgeon directs — sometimes days after surgery.
Warning: Why chiropractic therapy with an IVDD dog is contraindicated:  https://dodgerslist.com/chiropractic/

Wheelchairs when? features? – Shortcut Thru IVDD


Wheelchair, cart, when? Features?

At the end of crate rest, many dogs are recovering to the degree that money is better spent on physical therapy to help them learn to walk again. If a wheelchair is needed while waiting on more nerve repair, then look for the specific features an IVDD dog needs.

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Top priority is to let the disc heal completely by finishing 4-6 weeks post-op or 8 weeks conservative crate rest.

At the end of crate rest, you and your vet can better assess if a wheelchair is needed.

Keep in mind a cart is not for all day use, but rather a couple of hours at a time.

A paralyzed dog will use a cart everyday, it is better to save up for the best cart you can afford, than to purchase one that is ill fitting and inconvenient to get the dog in and out of.

A professionally made cart is likely to be much better than a homemade cart in regard to pressure points, balance & stability. Be careful where the yoke/ harness sits on your dog, you do not want to cause pain or further injury to an IVDD dog. Check with your vet or other professional.

Features to look for in a cart: https://dodgerslist.com/wheelchairs/

IVDD Precautions: anesthesia dentals x-rays -Shortcut Thru IVDD

Precautions with dentals and x-rays

IVDD dogs have a special risk whenever they are under anesthesia for dentals, x-rays, etc.

For all breeds prone to IVDD or any dog that has been diagnosed with IVDD

You never know when/if the first episode will happen with breeds prone to IVDD. IVDD dogs have a special risk whenever they are under anesthesia. You already know that an IVDD dog is always at risk for a future injury due to degenerating discs. You need to treat IVDD as a lifelong disease of discs that prematurely age.

When dogs go under, risk is increased. The dog loses all muscle tone and support. If the surgical team is not careful, lifting or turning the dog the wrong way could potentially cause a secondary disc injury. It is rare but it can happen.

Please keep this in mind any time your dog goes under for a dental or medical imaging or any other reason. Make sure that whoever is working with your dog understands that your dog has IVDD, and they need to take special care to support your dog’s spine before, during, and after anesthesia.

5 Things to know about dentals

  1. Plaque turns to tartar in 36 hours. Once it becomes tartar it can’t be removed with a toothbrush. Plan on brushing daily to extend the time between a dental.
  2. Schedule your dog on days that are not “booked solid” so the staff has more time to care for your dog.
  3. Write a note in red ink on the dental consent form: “XX is an IVDD dog. Please support this dog’s back before, during and after anesthesia. Keep the front and back legs in the same plane when repositioning the body to avoid twisting the trunk.”
  4. Ask to speak with the vet tech and vet who are going to do the work to explain how precious your dog is to you and to speak to your questions or concerns.
  5. Hang around to make sure things are going OK so they know you are available in the waiting room or give a number where they can reach you.
  6. At pick up, cookies or a box of goodies will help keep everyone on a positive note for next time!

Video below shows behind the scenes dental activities.

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