Intervertebral Disc Disease

The spinal cord is a sensitive organ system that is protected by bony vertebrae. Intervertebral discs are shock-absorbing soft cushions between the vertebrae. The inside of these cushions is soft and jelly-like while on the exterior they are firm. As the dog ages, the outer portion of the disc becomes prone to degeneration which ruptures the inside of the disc and is pushed out. Once the disc ruptures and the jelly-like center is expelled out, it bruises the spinal cord above it. The surrounding bone makes the spinal cord compressed and swollen. This affects the conduction of nerve impulses. The common sign of intervertebral disc disease is the neck or back pain, inability to fully lift the head, urinary incontinence and eventually paralysis. Intervertebral disc disease is diagnosed by a physical examination which is followed by c X-ray. However, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are reliable in locating the lesions and have replaced the myelogram X-ray. Pain management, oral anti-inflammatory medication, and cage rest can benefit the dog when the symptoms are mild while in severe cases emergency surgery is required to restore the nerve function and prevent irreversible damage to nerves.