Emergency FAQ | Premier website for Dog Back Disease (IVDD)


Emergency FAQ

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Suspect IVDD? Do this now!

crate rest in an ex-pen

#1 Restrict movement

Strictly limit movement of the back and neck. Prevent the disc from worsening and escalation to spinal cord nerve damage. Options: ex-pen, Pack N Play, wire crate

#2 Get to a vet ASAP

Hours matter. The better the chance to preserve neuro functions. The sooner your dog can be in comfort while healing.

#3 Know your options

There are two treatments options available for a disc episode. Surgery or conservative treatment (Meds + Rest.)

Calm your mind. Know there IS good hope for your dog.

Disc disease is not a death sentence! There's good hope if surgery would not be an option for any reason (health or financial), conservative treatment is the best option. Many dogs heal their disc without a surgery with just meds and rest (conservative treatment). Surgery and conservative treated dogs with time self-heal nerve damage.

Join the Dodgerslist support group to learn how to care for your dog during a disc problem. http://dodgerslist.boards.net/

In the unlikely case that your dog would become paralyzed permanently, a happy, comfortable and excellent quality of life is made possible with a wheelchair.

Transporting to the vet

Secure the crate in your vehicle. Transport carefully using a crate padded out with rolled up towels on either side of the dog to prevent movement or jarring the spine when braking or turning corners.

Crating will help keep the dog from further injuring the spinal cord that could potentially lead to paralysis and loss of bladder control.

At the vet

You must inform your vet about everything you are giving your dog: meds, food and supplements. This avoids any potential for bad side effects with IVDD medications. Your vet MUST be made aware of what you are doing, even if it seems insignificant to you. 

Be informed on each med your dog takes, the expected benefit, and adverse reactions. Med research directory: MarVista Animal Center.

Monitor neuro function

Be able to act quickly if a surgery is a consideration for your family. if your dog’s legs are paralyzed plus there is a loss of deep pain sensation (DPS), hours matter in getting a referral to a surgeon.

The last, best chance for a good surgical outcome is within a window of 12-24 hours from losing the last of neuro functions, DPS. Even after that window of time, there can still be a good outcome. Each hour that passes decreases that chance. Precious hours can be lost with a vet that gets DPS wrong.

Generally, your vet would give a referral to a specialist. Know that it is considered an emergency when legs are paralyzed. If your vet is not open, call directly to see a neuro or ortho surgeon if a surgery would be an option for your family. If for whatever reason a surgery is not a consideration for your family, then conservative treatment (meds and rest) is the best option.

Order of neuro function loss

  • Pain caused by the initial tearing disc & inflammation in the spinal cord
  • Wobbly walking, legs cross
  • Nails scuffing floor
  • Paws knuckle under
  • Legs do not work (paralysis, dog is “down”)
  • Bladder control is lost, can no longer sniff and then release urine
  • Tail wagging with joy with some happy talk from you is lost
  • Loss of deep pain sensation (DPS), the last neuro function. A general vet is not qualified to assess if a dog is a candidate for surgery but is qualified to refer you to a specialist. Only a board certified ortho or neuro surgeon can advise you on surgery. DPS, the last neuro function, is a critical indicator for nerves to be able to self heal after surgery or with conservative treatment.
More detail on conservative treatment vs. a surgery:

Surgery nor conservative treatment (medications & crate rest) are “guaranteed” to heal nerve damage

If surgery is not an option, do not give up hope. Many dogs have recovered with medications and 100% STRICT rest.

Join the Dodgerslist support group to learn at-home care for your dog during a disc problem.http://dodgerslist.boards.net/

Recovery Suite with room service!Limited movement–crate rest protects the spinal cord from further damage and allows the disc to heal during the 8 weeks of crate rest during conservative treatment.

Tip: Recovery suite size, Potty time

The restricted area (ex-pen, crate, etc.) should be approximately enough room to stand up, turn around, and when lying down fully stretch out the legs. The dog must stay in the STRICT rest 24/7 to protect the spinal cord. Carry to and from potty place. Stand in one spot. Allow your dog to only take minimal steps with harness and a 6′ leash. Complete details on how to implement strict rest:

Med safety tips

Your vet should discuss known side effects and do bloodwork labs before administering NSAIDs. NSAIDs can become toxic to the liver and kidneys very quickly in some dogs.

An antacid stomach protector such as over-the-counter Pepcid AC (famotidine) can help with the extra stomach acids.

NSAIDs should never be prescribed with a steroid. Safe use of anti-inflammatory drugs: A washout time of 4-7 days if there is a switch between the two classes of anti-inflammatory drugs is common practice.

Board-certified neuros/orthos Directory

No or low interest credit

for veterinary costs can be obtained from Care Credit https://www.carecredit.com/faqs/. You find out online if you qualify.
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