Medical Management of Intervertebral Disk Disease

Spinal disorders are common in pets and require veterinary attention. Dogs and cats with conditions like invertebral disk disease may experience pain and neurological symptoms that can significantly impact a pet’s quality of life.

Invertebral Disk Disease

cat-inthe-bedInvertebral disk disease is a condition in which the invertebral disks, which are responsible for cushioning between the vertebrae of the spine, begin to degenerate. The condition occurs far more often in dogs than in cats and is currently the most commonly diagnosed spinal cord condition in dogs. As the disks degenerate, fluid inside them leaks out, causing pressure and damage to the surrounding nerves and spinal cord. The result is a very painful condition that can sometimes result in paralysis.

X-rays and MRI imaging tests can reveal invertebral disk disease, making it possible for a veterinary neurologist to begin treatment. Medical management may be possible for pets with mild to moderate invertebral disk disease in which there are no significant neurological deficits. Providing relief from pain and inflammation allows the body the opportunity to heal after a period of rest. However, pets with progressive symptoms, such as weakness or paralysis, may only recover with surgical treatment.

Wobbler’s Syndrome

Wobbler’s Syndrome is a neurological condition of the spinal cord primarily affecting large breed dogs. The exact cause of the disease is unknown, although most pets with Wobbler’s Syndrome present with some degree of spinal compression. Symptoms of Wobbler’s Syndrome include a ‘wobbly’ gait in the back end. As the disease progresses, dogs may begin to walk with their heads down to alleviate pain. Severe cases of Wobbler’s Syndrome can affect all four limbs of the body, making a pet appear very weak and experience difficulty getting up.

A veterinary examination, x-rays and MRI imaging can confirm a diagnosis of Wobbler’s Syndrome. Depending on the extent of the condition and related symptoms, pets may benefit from medical management, which usually includes anti-inflammatory medication and a period of restricted activity. Dogs with more advanced Wobbler’s Syndrome may require surgical intervention. Regardless of the mode of treatment, Wobbler’s Syndrom usually improves or otherwise remains stable in most pets that undergo treatment.

Other Spinal Disorders

In addition to invertebral disk disease and Wobbler’s Syndrome, there are several other disorders that can affect the spinal column in pets. Examples include congenital birth defects, inflammatory diseases, degenerative diseases, infectious diseases, physical traumas, cancers, toxic diseases, and vascular diseases. It is important that pet owners seek treatment for their dogs or cats at the first sign of a neurological problem. Early diagnosis means earlier treatment, which can improve a pet’s long-term prognosis.

For more information about medical management of spinal disorders, please contact our office to schedule an appointment.