Herniated Disk Disease in Dogs
Intervertebral disk disease (IDD) is severe degeneration of the intervertebral disk caused by calcification of the intervertebral. The disease is a very common neurological disease that mostly affects Dachshunds breeds. The condition is evident when disks that enjoin spinal bones (vertebrae) begin to degenerate, thereby causing pain in the back, neck, arms and legs. Any disk along the intervertebral column can be affected, but the severity of the disease depends on the location of the affected disk (Jeong et al., 2019). The disease affects approximately 0.3% of dogs every year, translating to about 10,000 dogs. IDD frequently affects chondrodystrophic (dogs typical of short legs and long bags) dogs such as the Bassett and Dachshund (Lappalainen et al., 2014). The disease can, however, affect any breed of animals, including cats.
Signs and Symptoms
In dogs suffering from IDD, the disc’s calcification occurs at the centre, and the capsule becomes fragile. This situation subjects the capsule of the disc to unprecedented rapturing, thereby letting the calcified materials from the spinal’s epicentre to drain in the spinal canal and exert pressure on the spinal cord. The rapture of the disk may occur acutely, thereby causing sudden pain followed by paralysis in just after a few hours (Dorn & Seath, 2018). The disorder can also occur gradually over a long period of time where it results in unending back pain and nerve damage. Some affected dogs suffer from a combination of two cases, causing disk slip or disk rapture. Radiographic examinations of intervertebral disk herniation in dogs have not revealed any connection between the age of a dog and IDD (Jeong et al., 2019). Injuries have been associated with about 12% of IDD cases in dogs.
IDD affects the neck and the thrombococular sections of the vertebrae in the event a disk raptures and exerts pressure on the spinal cord. This condition causes impaired signal transmissions from the brain leading to the legs. If the dog’s disk near the neck raptures, the occurrence affects all four legs. If the rapture affects a disc in the back area, the front will experience normal functioning, but the functionality of the back will become impaired (Fenn et al., 2020). The severity of the symptoms of the affected dog depends on the degree of damage to the spinal cord. A low grade and gradual rapture will cause slight back or neck pains with mild paralysis. If the rapture occurs faster and with much force, excessive pain and paralysis occur.
Symptoms of IDD vary with time and, in most cases, occur progressively as the degeneration continues to affect the animal. The severity of a slipped disk can be known through the study of progressive symptoms occurring in IDD dogs. Initial symptoms (stage 1) of dogs with IDD include frequent neck and back pains without verifiable neurological defects. Dogs then exhibit walking while knuckling paws and improper coordination of limbs (ataxia) in stage 2. They then develop the inability to stand and walk independently despite having the ability to move their legs at stage 3 of neurological degeneration. Paralysis occurs at stage 4, where IDD dogs experience a total inability to move legs but can feel their toes (Lappalainen et al., 2014). Pinching of the toes can be done to realize the onset of this stage. In stage 5, the affected dogs experience complete paralysis and can feel the tip of their toes even when pinched.
Prevention and Treatment
The decision to medically or surgically treat intervertebral disc disease largely depends on a number of factors. These factors include the onset rate and progression of the condition, stage of the disease, medication response and availability of an experienced surgeon to handle a particular IDD case. Medical therapy can be used to treat dogs with mild IDD symptoms such as back pains and ataxia and are still capable of walking (Dorn & Seath, 2018). Acute IDD can be reduced via medical management where dogs are administered with medication for about 3-4 weeks while in confinement Confinement prevents the dog from jumping over furniture and allows time for a scar to form over the ruptured disk, thereby reducing pain and prevent future herniating of the disk. Surgery can be recommended for successful and long-term treatment of IDD in dogs. Vetenaris recommend surgery in cases of acute/severe ataxia and paralysis, which mostly occur between stage 3 and stage 5 of the condition (Dorn & Seath, 2018). Surgery can also be recommended in instances of unending neck and back pains amid medical therapy. The common surgical procedures for IDD are hemilaminectomy of the affected disk in the back and ventral slots of a herniated disk in the neck. The success rate of the surgery depends on the affected area, but generally, most surgeries have a success rate of 90%. It is difficult to prevent IDD because it has a strong genetic component (Jeong et al., 2019). Those at risk are chondrodystrophic dogs and those exhibiting a family history of IDD. Maintaining a slight and thin body weight can help prevent the condition. Crossbreeding can also serve as a preventive measure to reduce the genetic components associated with the condition.
The future of IDD treatment is evident through biotechnological approaches to treatment. A breeding program will be used to screen dogs for IDD and select dogs against intervertebral disc calcification, which causes IDD, as a way of reducing the presence of IDD-causing gene in dogs. It is advisable to screen dogs between 24 to 48 months of age because this is the appropriate time to detect the presence of IDD-causing genes in dogs. As radiographic technology is continuing to advance, the screening will be efficient, and its accuracy will be relied upon highly by veterinaries in determining the course of treatment and prevention for the disease.