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Does Your Dog Have Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) Or Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)? October 06, 2021

Does Your Dog Have Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) Or Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)?

Does Your Dog Have Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) Or Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)?

Your Dog’s Spinal Health

When it comes to the health of your dog, knowledge can save their life. The sooner you understand their symptoms, the sooner you can alert the veterinarian to your dog’s situation. One of the most devastating health conditions for dogs is back problems. Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is the number one health issue small dogs face. However, there is another condition that is often mistaken with IVDD. That condition is Degenerative Myelopathy (DM).

Keep in mind, big dogs also suffer from spine injuries as well as IVDD and DM.  So, how can you tell if your dog is suffering from IVDD or DM? Below is a comparison of the two health conditions.

Category Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)
The usual age of onset 8-12 years 2-8 years
MRI Normal Shows disk damage
DM DNA test DM DNA test May be Clear, Carrier, or At Risk.
Initial signs Dog loses the ability to sense movement or body position, feet slipping, dragging, or crossing, loss of muscle in back legs Can be sudden, acute, complete paralysis. Can also have symptoms like those of DM. Rear feet may knuckle over, the dog may lose “quick reflex” in back feet (slow or not able to right foot).
Pain None from DM Mild to extreme; no deep pain occurs only with complete paralysis.
Improvement None: progresses until the dog is completely paralyzed and body systems shut down. Improvement may occur with surgery or rest, medications, rehab.
Treatment Physical therapy may help slow progression, supplements are sometimes recommended, no cure. Assistive devices and carts will be needed, the dog will need help with toileting and preventing bed sores. Surgery or crate rest combined with physical therapy, NSAIDS, or steroids.

Does Your Dog Have Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) Or Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)?

Is Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) Preventable?

There is no way to prevent degenerative myelopathy in dogs except through selective breeding. Request to see if the pup’s SOD-1 gene mutation testing results. They should come back normal. Breeds at risk for DM include:

Does Your Dog Have Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) Or Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)?

Is Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) Preventable?

There is no way to prevent IVDD, but you can lower the risks for your four-legged buddy by having them use a dog ramp. Dog ramps ease the pressure small dogs put on their spines when they are jumping onto furniture or running up and down the stairs.



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Small dogs are prone to IVDD, and Dachshunds, in particular, have the highest rate of IVDD. Their elongated spines and short legs force more pressure on their spines. While dog ramps can be expensive, it is well worth the money spent. A dog suffering from IVDD is not only heartbreaking but can be fatal as well. Some breeds at risk for IVDD include:

Final Thoughts

IVDD and DM are debilitating conditions. Not only will your dog suffer, but so will your bank account. Vet bills for checkups and surgeries can be very costly. The best solution is taking preventative steps and maintaining your dog’s overall health.

If you think your dog is suffering from a back issue, take them to the vet immediately. The sooner they are seen, the quicker they will get the care needed to get back on their fur feet.

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