Intervertebral discs are the cushions between the bony bodies of the vertebrae; they absorb shock. These discs have a fibrous outer ring, and a soft, gelatinous inside; they are like a jelly-filled doughnut.
WHAT CAUSES INTERVERTEBRAL DISC DISEASE
There are two major types/causes of Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) – traumatic, and degenerative.
DEGENERATIVE CAUSED INTERVERTEBRAL DISC DISEASE
Degenerative intervertebral disc disease is when the intervertebral disc degenerates, many times because of genetics, and the disc ruptures, leading to large chunks of degenerative disc (chunks of the doughnut, if you will) pushing on the spinal cord, causing compression. Degenerative disc disease requires surgery to remove the chunks of disc that are putting pressure on, and compressing, the spinal cord. Chondrodystrophic breeds (like Dachshunds and Shih-tzus) are predisposed to this disease, but any breed can be affected.
TRAUMA CAUSED INTERVERTEBRAL DISC DISEASE
Trauma can cause rupture of the intervertebral discs, leading to an explosion of disc material (or jelly filling) into the vertebral canal, which can bruise the spinal cord. Even though there is ‘disc material’ in the vertebral column, there is truly nothing putting pressure on the spinal cord (i.e. there is nothing to surgically remove). Traumatic intervertebral disc disease will typically heal on its own, without surgery, however it can take weeks to months to regain normal neurologic function.
HOW IS INTERVERTEBRAL DISC DISEASE DIAGNOSED
The only way to definitively diagnose intervertebral dis disease is with an MRI of the spine, guided by a veterinary neurologist. Once a diagnosis is achieved, a treatment plan is made with the neurologist.