Happy September! I hope you had some time to read last week's column about my interview with dog trainer Beth Jeffrey. It was wonderful to get her insight on the dog-training industry and hear her tips and tricks for dog owners who wish to train their pets on their own. This week we are lucky to have Lisa Luckenbach, creator of the WiggleLess dog back brace, write a guest blog for our column.
By definition, a surprise comes when you least expect it! Some surprises are fun, thrilling even, but others are not expected or welcomed. Years ago, I received one of the unwelcome kind with one of my dogs, June. To say that June was playful was an understatement! She was a vibrant, rambunctious little dachshund who shared my love for hiking, swimming, and doing anything outdoors.
Earlier in her life, June had been as fearless as she was tireless — always eager to walk that extra mile, swim that extra lap, jump a little higher, and do a little more … until it began putting her health at risk.
At age three, June had already experienced one or two back-related injuries, but her restless and waggling nature prolonged her recovery time. During one particular recovery period, I noticed that the happy, eager pup I once knew had become something entirely different — a victim of her own body.
June's whole physicality had changed — she was hunched over and visibly tense, whined constantly, and always seemed anxious. Even when the vet declared her ‘out of the woods’ recovery-wise, June still seemed to struggle. Being the proactive pet parent that I am, I jumped on my computer and did a search for her symptoms and eventually found a possible culprit, which our vet later confirmed: IVDD, or Intervertebral Disc Disease.
IVDD is an ailment in which the supporting discs between the vertebrae bulge or rupture into or around the spinal cord. These discs ultimately put pressure on the nerves running through the spinal cord, causing pain, nerve damage, and other maladies. IVDD is extremely common in chondrodystrophic breeds, dogs whose normal cartilage development has been altered through generations of breeding to get a stout, usually shorter appearance.
Examples of chondrodystrophic breeds include dachshunds, beagles, bulldogs, corgis, pugs, basset hounds, and poodles. While they are prone to the disease, IVDD is not exclusive to these breeds, and disc degeneration can be present in dogs as young as six to twelve months.
Other symptoms of IVDD include:
- Pain or stiffness in the back or neck
- Change in stance or posture (for instance, an arched or hunched back)
- Lack of coordination
- Impairment or complete lameness in one or more limbs
- Reluctance to walk, rise, or play
- Sudden general weakness when moving
- Changes in urination, specifically a loss of bladder control
There are two types of disc disease: Type I and Type II. The worst surprise, Type I, is suddenly obvious and usually more painful. With Type I, a disc’s outer layer calcifies or hardens, causing it to become brittle and more prone to breakage when met with sudden, forceful impacts. When this happens, part of the disc bursts, and its inner material presses into the spinal cord and the nerves within it. Type II, on the other hand, usually presents itself during a dog’s later years (usually between ages eight and ten) as degeneration of the disc occurs over time through everyday wear and tear.
Should you notice one or more IVDD symptoms in your pup, get him evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible. Left untreated, IVDD can lead to disc rupture, increased pain, and even paralysis. Even when treated, IVDD can have lifelong effects, so consistent care is critical.
We worked constantly with June after her diagnosis — regularly engaging her back with calming exercises and massages. We even went so far as to create a specially designed back brace for her, which helped a great deal.
Don’t let IVDD take you by surprise like it did June and me! With IVDD, like any ailment, proactivity, patience, and persistent care of your pup is key to a healthy, happy life.
- Don’t ever ignore any sign that your dog is in pain
- Have your dog avoid overexertion — especially if he is a smaller breed
- Keep your dog at a healthy weight — avoid obesity
Author: Lisa Luckenbach developed WiggleLess back braces for dogs who are overweight and need extra support, elderly with aching backs, diagnosed with IVDD-related back problems, or overly active and could benefit from the structure a dog back brace provides. In addition to running WiggleLess.com, Lisa is a registered yoga instructor, licensed massage therapist, public speaker, ordained minister, and breast cancer survivor. She shares her home with her husband and three spunky adopted dogs, Ryder (cocker spaniel), LaVerne (schnauzer-doxie mix), and Chai (doxie-Jack Russell mix). Visit wiggleless.com to learn more about Lisa and her back brace for dogs.