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Finding an IVDD Vet- Strategies

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Hiring An IVDD Vet​

Finding a good IVDD vet can be tricky. Many vets are wonderful with routine visits, but when it comes to a health problem not commonly seen, they may not have the experience to treat IVDD.
Talk to your friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc., and ask them about their vet. Particularly ask if they’ve ever had to use the vet in an emergency situation or when their dog was ill rather than just for well visits or routine exams. When you hear of one that sounds good, call the office and ask them a few questions. You might even set up an appointment for a consultation visit, which isn’t all that uncommon these days.

Having a vet familiar with IVDD is important as it is a disease your dog will have for the rest of its life. If a vet is open to learning, consulting with colleagues, and the pet parent is willing to learn about IVDD and discussing the information with the vet, then that works out great. But if your vet isn’t open to such a situation and isn’t treating IVDD properly, then it’s time to look for a new vet.
Should your dog need surgery, look for a board certified specialist to perform this most delicate of surgeries. Look for these letters to indicate the vet is a board certified surgeon: Neuro (ACVIM) or Ortho (ACVS).

Board certified surgical specialists can be found at university vet teaching hospitals.

Neuro Surgeon

Board certified ACVIM

Ortho Surgeon

Board certified ACVS

World locator: European Neuro Specialist

EBVS® European Specialist in Veterinary Neurology

What is Board Certified?

When looking for a vet or surgeon, patients generally see many alphabet credentials and certifications in a title. Many times these credentials are confusing, and there is little opportunity to weigh the relative value of seemingly similar credentials.

With a four-year general practice veterinary (DVM) degree and a license, a vet may practice any kind of medicine or surgery with or without additional special training.

The American Veterinary Medical Association mandates the use of “specialist” be reserved only for veterinarians who have completed advanced studies to become a “diplomate,” board certified.

Diplomates who have completed additional coursework, an approved residency, and passed the board’s exam may then rightly use ACVIM or ACVS in their title.

While many vets who are family practice DVMs (not board certified) might offer neurological surgery, board certification is a good standard by which to measure competence and training.

Indicators That It’s Time to Find a New Vet

How can you know if your vet’s performance is unworthy of your patronage? Here are five red flag indicators to prompt you to consider looking for someone new. How to get your pet's records.

Time for a reality check:

Questions for the general family practice DVM vet

  1. How often do you see dogs with IVDD?
  2. How do you treat a mild IVDD episode with pain only? When there is neuro function loss?
  3. What period of crate rest do you recommend? Is that actually in a crate (recovery suite) or just keeping the dog quiet?
  4. If both steroids and NSAID anti-inflammatories are in your clinic, how do you choose which to use during a disc episode?
  5. How do you feel about pain management?
  6. What surgeon would you send me to if my dog needed IVDD surgery?
  7. Who are the IVDD friendly ER vets?
  8. What is your opinion of alternative and non-traditional treatments for IVDD: supplements & acupuncture, laser light therapy? NOTE: Chiropractic manipulation (VOM) is a red flag for IVDD dogs.
  9. Do you have a list of alternative providers that you regularly work with?

Questions to ask the ER DVM vet

  1. What tests or examinations will you perform to diagnose my dog’s issue (e.g., neurological exam, x-rays to rule out other things that mimic IVDD, bloodwork for organ health)?
  2. If my dog has a disc herniation, does he have bladder and bowel control? If not, can you give me a hands-on bladder expressing lesson?
  3. What treatment options do you offer?
  4. Are you staffed to keep my dog overnight? Technician or lay staff? If you are going to administer drugs, which ones and what are their side effects? Will my dog’s pain be controlled?
  5. Does your facility have a board-certified surgeon or a specialized neurological or orthopedic surgeon? If not, will you refer us to one if surgery is needed?
  6. Surgery is not an option for us. Will my dog continue treatment with you or will you refer me to another vet? If so, what are the recommendations of that vet? Can you transfer us to my regular daytime vet?
  7.  What is your final diagnosis and prognosis?
  8. Have you ruled out any other diseases? How and what tests were done?
  9. Will you write down all of my dog’s drugs, tests, and results for me to have and to take to another vet if needed? Can I have a copy of my records and my x-rays to take to my regular vet or the referral surgeon?
  10. Can you give me a referral to a board-certified neurological or orthopedic surgeon?

Questions to ask the board certified neuro or ortho SURGEON

  1. Do you use MRI, Myelogram, or CT Scan to determine the site of the herniation? What are the risks of each one or the one you use?
  2. What are the risks of surgery? How long does the surgery take?
  3. What is your IVDD experience and your IVDD case load per month?
  4. What techniques do you use? Anesthesia: pre-meds, IV or gas induction agent, monitors, post-operative pain medication; ICU hours? Technicians or lay staff? Ask for explanation in layman’s terms if you don’t understand.
  5. Tell me about your specialized surgical equipment if an operation is needed.
  6. Do you fenestrate (operate on adjacent discs to prevent a future herniation)? If not, what are your reasons?
  7. What symptoms must the dog show for you to perform surgery vs. continuing with conservative treatment (paralysis? just pain? just a wobbly gait? etc.)?
  8. What drugs are usually recommended after surgery? Will you provide a pain med prescription in case at-home pain occurs?
  9.  How many weeks of post-op crate rest do you recommend, and what are your usual protocols regarding physical therapy?
  10. . Is there a technician who can show me how to express the bladder and perform exercises if I need a review?
  11.  Will you provide me with a list of symptoms that might indicate something is wrong with my dog’s healing process once he is home?
  12. What plan should I follow if something goes wrong during healing at home (who to call, where to go, what to do)?
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