ivdd dog

Managing a Dog with IVDD

ivdd dog

The saying goes that life can change in an instant. This saying applies to dogs, too. Felicia Easley knows all too well the reality of this statement. Her once playful 6-year-old Cocker Spaniel mix became paralyzed in March of 2014. Prior to injury, the dog, Bob, was a happy, healthy dog with no major illnesses.

“Bob (initially) suffered abrupt and complete paralysis from his hips to his tail; he had no movement and no bowel control.,” Easley says. “It occurred when a friend’s dog was visiting and continually tried to rough house play with Bob. This dog was larger and while trying to engage Bob in playing, continually jumped on his back and hindquarters. Within an hour or so, Bob couldn’t move and was completely paralyzed”

Easley isn’t alone in dealing with a dog with some of paralysis and/or spinal cord injury. Poppy the Cocker Spaniel has had 2 spinal surgeries for degenerative disc disease (IVDD). After her last IVDD surgery in April 2012, she spent 2 months in total crate rest, and the next 4 months of mostly crate rest with multiple exercises, acupuncture and  hydrotherapy, to gain strength in her back legs so she could walk again. Her mom says, “She still has neurological deficiencies. I don’t think she has normal feeling in her hind end. She can’t empty her bladder fully without my help, although sometimes she surprises me and does just that. For the first year she often pooped in her sleep. She has improved, primarily because she’s on a highly digestible raw diet. It’s a delicate balance of regular visits to potty outside, bladder expression, and learning to read the little signs that she’s “got to go” but just doesn’t know it.”

cocker IVDD
Kim and Poppy don’t let IVDD slow them down.

Dog mom, Kim Kiernan, says Poppy has some permanent neurological deficits. She lost the concept of being potty trained and has a great difficulty fully emptying her bladder on her own.

“I learned to express her bladder and do so at least 4 times daily to prevent a urinary tract infection. She defecates on her own but will occasionally go in her sleep as well,” Kiernan shares. “This is become much less frequent since 2012. These are likely due to neurological deficits. The best thing with her potty problems is to keep her on a schedule. I no longer have to use potty pads in her crate thank heavens!”

Living with a Dog With Paralysis/Back Problems

It isn’t easy, and neither dog mom admits that it is. Bob’s handicap was something Easley had never heard of or seen before. As a dog lover, she was determined to take care of him the best she could.

“It can be very tiring, frustrating and discouraging to care for a handicapped pet, “Easley admits. “My advice for anyone who finds him or herself in this situation with a pet is to do as much research on your own that you can about the disease. Creating a special Instagram account for Bob has been such a blessing!”

On a side note, on Instagram is where I crossed paths with Turbo_Bobby. I loved watching the photos fill my stream: Not of a dog with a disability but of a life well lived and well loved.

IVDD dog
Turbo Bobby lives happily with his family on The Big Island named Hawai’i.

Until landing on Instagram, Easley did not realize how many people in the world have handicapped dogs that are suffering with IVDD. Through social media, she has been able to connect with a community of dog lovers and parents of dogs who have IVDD and this has been a therapy group of sorts. They share tips for our dogs about how to care for them and they share in the daily improvements and sometimes the setbacks that our pets experience.

The Long Road of IVDD

Having spent time in the company of Poppy and her mom, I can attest to the can-do attitude and wanting to be just like the other “kids.” As a Cocker, she wants to run, play, and explore. Her neurologist says she can resume normal activity, but Kiernan thinks the dog park is probably out at this stage. Since she has IVDD and it is a permanent condition, Poppy could rupture another disc. So, her mom minimizes jumping as little as possible. In true Cocker form, she does like to try to stand on her back legs to reach food.

What is IVDD

IVDD is intervertebral disc disease, a condition that is serious and more often seen in dogs than cats. Discs act as cushioning pads, as they do in people, and are located in the spinal column between most of the vertebra. On the outside, the discs are tough and fibrous but the center is gel-like. Discs are like shock absorbers for bones (vertebra) of the spinal column.

Disc damage can occur in the neck, back, legs, and can be herniated, slipped, or ruptured. IVDD is a neurologic disorder and often times, aging dogs are more prone to the problem.

dog IVDD
Bobby rocks a mohawk

According to petMD.com, there are two types of IVDD: Type I (more severe) and type II. Signs of IVDD include, but are not limited to:

  • Unwillingness to jump
  • Pain and weakness in rear legs (lameness)
  • Crying out in pain
  • Anxious behavior
  • Muscle spasms over back or neck
  • Hunched back or neck with tense muscles
  • Reduced appetite and activity level
  • Loss of bladder and/or bowel control (urinary and fecal incontinence, respectively)

Dogs may sometimes require a special mobility device, physical therapy, medication, and ongoing treatment and monitoring, capped off with the best medicine of all: A loving pet parent(s) to be his advocate and loving guardian.

Prevention of IVDD

Some breeds are predisposed or more prone to the disease, so  keeping them at a lower weight will help reduce the stress on their backbone and neck.These breeds include the Dachshund, Basset Hound, Beagle, French Bulldog, Lhasa Apso, Pekingese, Pomeranian, Shih Tzu, Welsh Corgi, Cocker Spaniels, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

Doberman Pinschers are the only non-chondrodystrophic large breed dog to be predisposed to this disease (referred to as “Wobbler’s disease” in the breed.)  Apart from affecting larger breed dogs more commonly, Type II IVDD seems to offer no specific breed predispositions.(Embrace Pet Insurance).

Keep stress off your dog’s neck and never pull or tug on his leash when walking. If your dog tends to be a puller, walk with a harness. Dogs with IVDD should have access to ramps or steps and if at all possible, avoid anything that can put further strain on the spinal column.
poppy swimmer

It Can Be Managed

There are throngs of diseases that can and do affect dogs (and people), and they can be managed. People do ask ignorant, belittling, or even mean questions about our dogs from time to time. At the age of 46, I’ve learned that getting mad and allowing negative comments to tie me up in knots serves no purpose in my life. Speaking against naysayers and trying to educate the ignorant has become more the norm in my life. Of course, there are some folks who just aren’t worth educating.

Having raised a puppy mill rescue dog with a lifelong host of health problems, I have no regrets: I cannot say the same for some of the rude comments tossed my way in public in reaction to my dog as she aged.

Those of us who care for pets with disabilities are bound to meet the occasional idiot. These are the folks who are “filter-less,” as in they say whatever they please. And the comment that seems to most often come out is,  “I’d never spend that much money to help a dog.”

rude people

One of the greatest retorts to this I read in a blog post by Dr. Marty Becker.  After a customer picked up her prescription for her dog, the amount revealed was well over $100. This caused customer B to say aloud, “I’d never spend that much money to help a dog.” Dr. Becker explained to the rude woman that the dog might be a therapy dog, a companion, or just a pet who adds joy to this lady’s life. Perhaps the dog is the reason this lady gets up in the morning and gives her life purpose. He asked if the woman ever took expensive vacations and she replied that she did. Why then, Dr. Becker, replied is it acceptable to spend large amounts of money on travel but not to save a life? The woman walked away, in a hurry, but perhaps will think twice in the future.

In a day and age where dogs give us so much: From comfort to companionship—from working dogs to search and rescue dogs—and so much more: Please think twice before imparting rude words to a dedicated pet parent like the above. Rule of thumb: Say something nice or nothing at all.

To all of the dog moms and dog dads out there living with and managing life with a dog – no matter the age, breed, health, or situation, we raise our sparkling water bowls to you with love.

Have you ever dealt with a dog with a disability and how did things do for you? If not, then how would you handle rude people?


  1. Great article Carol! Poppy send you kisses and is honored to be “in print!” If it hadn’t have been for the surgery and swim therapy, Poppy would probably have never walked again. Education is critically important with IVDD because every second counts. Each moment where the spinal cord is compressed by a ruptured disc, means a higher likelihood of permanent neurological damage and paralysis.

  2. I’m so inspired by the dedication and devotion of all the dog moms and dads who care for handicapped pets. What a great, informative post. I have a Doberman mix who is lately not wanting to jump up with us on our bed anymore…so this concerns me, and I’m glad I read this as it warrants further investigation. As far as the “I wouldn’t spend that much money on a pet” comments – why can’t people keep their snarky, rude, ignorant mouths shut? Our pets are FAMILY – and as such, they are worth every penny of any vet treatment they need for their health. I’m so sorry you’ve had to endure comments like that – keep your chin up because you are clearly the better person. 🙂

      1. When my dog was diagnosed with ivdd I didnt know what to do and was terrified. I’m no expert bit I’ll share with you some of the things I did. The vet wanted us to give her a cocktail of meds and also wanted us to closely watch her potty time, its important that your dog is pooping and peeing. We didnt have the funds to opt for surgery so we put her in bed rest for about two weeks. We weren’t seeing any results on her paralysis and she could not pee, she could poop though, the vet also couldnt express her vladder so thry had to stock a needle in her bladder to drain the pee. After about a wrek she started to get feeling back in her rear right leg. At this time she started to go pee on her own (she pee’d over other dogs pee) and we kept going with the meds, we also treated her with some kind of laser treatment which in my opinion worked really well for her. Now she is, but not supposed to.be getting up and walking and running around. Hope this helped a bit and good luck to you and your pet.

  3. I’d never heard of IVDD, so thanks for an informative post. Hats off to all the pet parents who care for special needs pets, they do such an awesome job in trying to maintain quality of life! I’d do the same for any of my cat’s in a heartbeat, and in fact, when Charlie’s IBD was at its worst I was cleaning him up a few times a day and comforting him when he was howling in pain….

  4. As a pet sitter I have cared for dogs and cats with disabilities. Pets are like family, it’s unvelieveable, and so sad, what some people will say.

  5. It happened like that with Jasmine. In the fall she was doing great and looked like she easily had two more years under her hood. Right before Christmas her neck went bad and everything went down the hill from there.

  6. I absolutely love reading about wonderful pet parents that take such good care of our beloved companions such as Poppy and Bobby. It’s really rough sometimes having to listen to negative comments such as the one in Dr. Becker’s office – though I loved his retort. I don’t know how people can easily put some set monetary number on the worth of the love of a beloved companion. Great information on this disease – it sounds like it’s terrifying when it hits though I’m glad to read it can be managed. People who are raising pets with disabilities have a special place in my heart, it’s so inspirational to see how far love can reach.

  7. Great article. It has been a long journey for Poppy and her Mom. I’ rember her rupture well. We were on on pins and needles that night. Because of Kim’s motherly instinks Poppy got the care she needed to save her life. When one Dr did not recognoze the severity of her condition, Kim rushed her to a specialist who sprang into action. What followed were years of therapy.
    I remember the day that Kim posted the video of Poppy wagging her stubble (tail) for the first time. The joyfull tears were flowing that day. It meant that the therapy and treatment were working. Kim never gave up on her girl. She worked tirelessly to help Poppy regain the use for her legs.
    I am proud to be their friend. And I love them with my whole heart. Afterall, I am her Noba Skosha Gwammie 🙂

  8. Aww bless their little hearts. I’m sure it’s so hard on them too to have to deal with such circumstances. My grandparents have had a few dogs that lived into their late teens and later in life they all had issues to deal with too. Such a heartstring puller to see your pets when they’re struggling and/or hurting, from anything, but most especially when it’s hard for you to be able to help.

  9. I didn’t even realize there was such a disease that affected dogs. I feel bad for them! But, I am glad to see that you have shared how to care for them! Thanks!

  10. I’m sure Felicia’s friend feels just awful about Bob. What an unfortunate thing, but it is so great that Felicia and Bob are able to move forward and thrive.

    How lucky we are to live in a time when there is so many options and help available for people and pets who are disabled. Dr. Becker’s reply was just perfect!

  11. Just like special needs kids – there are special needs animals I have both – it really takes a special person to be able to deal with the issues that come along. kudos to you

  12. I don’t have a dog but they sure seems to be in good hands. I never knew about this disease. It is so sad they have to go through that hardship and pain.

  13. This is really important information. Our dog, Kermit, suffered from a long-term illness, Addison’s Disease. There were medications, diapers, constant checking on him, and trips to the vet all the time. It was only after he passed that I realized how much time and money we were spending on him. When I woke up the first few mornings after he passed, I hardly knew what to do with myself. All that time spent on him, and suddenly, it was over. Of course, I would do it all over again.

  14. oh my goodness, someone that I work with had this exact thing happen with her dog. They were in a dog park using one of those Chuck it ball throwers and it was after that. She had to have a very expensive surgery but luckily so far she seems ok. She walks a little stiffly but they need to always be cautious now with her activity.

  15. Wow, what an inspiring post! Did Bobby actually get his injury due to the rough play or would it have occurred anyway? My Husky sometimes gets a bit too rough during play with my smaller dog, I worry that this kind of injury could inadvertently happen to my little one when I’m not around. I really admire people who care for dogs with such special needs, they are truly inspirational. As for the insensitive clods who say stupid things like they’d never spend that much money on a dog – I pity them, they clearly never knew the true love and loyalty of a pet. You’ve gotta love Dr. Marty Becker – you GO Marty!!

  16. I have never had to deal with a disabled pet personally, but I do know the kind of people you are talking about. Chances are if someone was saying that about me, I wouldn’t dignify them with any kind of response at all. They have no business telling me how to spend my money. If I want to put my money in a blender and make a smoothie with it, that is my business and my business alone. I regard disabled pets and the owners that care for them very highly as I have spent many years caring for disabled humans. Disabilities don’t always affect quality of life the way ignorant people think they do.

  17. Our dog has arthritis in his pelvis from being the victim of a hit and run. Pets are just like family to us, so we never thought about getting rid of him or anything like that. I’m glad IVDD can be managed!

  18. I’m sorry to hear about Bob’s misfortune …I didn’t know Dogs could paralyzed like that. Its good to know the condition cab be managed

  19. I give this dog mom huge props for taking unbelievable care of her dog. That is true love and dedication.

  20. I am not a pet person so I have no experience with this. But wow that must be hard to deal with. Thankfully there is so much information to share with others on this subject.

  21. Oh my goodness…I had never thought that this could happen from rough play. I will definitely pay more attention to who and where Diesel is playing with.

  22. My Frenchie Lou had IVDD. I spent more money on him and cleaned up more pees and poos than I care to say. He was a brave boy and lived a good life. I’d do it all over again. I miss him.

    1. My Frenchie was just diagnosed last week. I can’t afford the $10k for surgery. Did yours have to have surgery? I’m willing to sell everything I own to fix my little girl.

  23. Poor Bob! I have 4 dogs of my own and I know I would do anything for them. It is nice to know that there are people out there that will help their dogs have the life they deserve to live.

  24. Wow, what an informative post, thanks so much for sharing. I love my pup (he’s a mut) I can’t ever experience going through something like this with him, but it’s nice to know there are so many resources and ways to work through it.

  25. Thank you for sharing this. This is new information for me and I did not realize that this could happen to dogs. So sorry to hear that people are rude about it. I do not have a dog but it is important to respect each other.

  26. Wow! I am so inspired by all the love given to these handicapped doggies. We need more stories like these in the world. I am an animal lover at heart and it warms my heart to see that these families have stepped up to the challenging task of taking care of a pet with special needs. Not all people would do the same! Kuddos to you all for your big hearts and all the care you give these adorable pups!

  27. I’m so glad to know there are many dedicated pet parents out there who will stay with their furry companions through the best and the worst situations.

    I’ve never had a disabled pet, but Carmine is special needs and so was Jewel. It can be overwhelming at times, but it is worth it! I would not have traded Jewel for anything, and I wouldn’t trade Carmine for anything either!! Special needs and disabled pets are truly special and hold a very special place in my heart. I plan to always take in special needs kitties as I know that sadly many others find them “less desirable or less adoptable.” I think these companions are the best!

  28. Brick has had issues with a herniated disc a couple times within the last few years. Sometimes it will still cause him pain, so we try to limit his jumping and we’re always very cautious when picking him up or playing fetch. Thanks for this info, this was a great post.

  29. I always learn so much from your posts, Carol, and appreciated learning more about our friend, Poppy’s condition too!

  30. I think it is amazing how caring and nurturing these pet parents are. Clearly it is a long road to recovery. To anyone who judges the care and time they put into dogs, its silly. I couldn’t put a price on making sure my boys were happy and healthy. Their value to me and our family is immeasurable!

  31. I have actually never heard about this situation before. MY dog broke his leg and had to have surgery, and it was a very hard time for us. Glad to see there are other dedicated puppy parents!

  32. I wrote a post about my dog Pasha who I spent tons of money on after he was hit by a car. He was a Keeshond mix, and wound up with a platter-sized bald spot on his back. Rude people are going to be rude; I answered questions about Pasha’s condition in the hopes that people would learn something. And they usually did. You can read the story here.
    Wags and purrs from Life with Dogs and Cats

  33. I admire what is being done for these dogs . I know personally I would eat mac and cheese and live in box to help my dog be healthy. Anyone that doesn’t understand that dogs are priceless, I don’t want to associate with anyway!!!

  34. I have an 8 year old Border Collie with IVDD. He had two ruptured vertebrae before we had a diagnosis from a veterinarian at 5 years old. I lift him in and out of the car, because he can’t even manage small jumps. But I am lucky, he is not paralyzed (at this point), and still has full control of his bladder and bowels. I am hoping he can lead a long, healthy life, but we take it one week at a time.

  35. I’ve never had to deal with a dog with a disability before. However if I did and someone was rude I would ask them how it would feel if someone said that about their mother or significant other. Dogs are so much more than pets.

  36. we need some advice about what and how to do thing for my baby.
    My Pekingese “Cuchi” is in a crate since 2 days now (started 12/21/15) she has IVDD, she is 11 years old, and she is a very healthy and dynamic small dog; until around 45 days ago when one day she started walking funny mostly on the front legs, she fell in the yard and I thought was a hole, now I remember when was the first episode and she became between scared to move; we took my baby to the vet and he put her on prednisolone 5mg once a day and Tramadol 1/4 if she was in deep pain; this last one was given few times in the 45 days she had the problem. She improved despite I saw her acting goofy and sleepy most of the time. Maybe because meds.
    Still she is able to walk to do her necessities.
    She has ups and down every other moment
    Back to the vet. He made arrangements for us to get her an MRI .. Tomorrow.
    Vet told us she might need surgery.., I read that there is another option a Conservative treatment one and this is what we are going for. Then I need to know:
    1- Can keeping her with this medication in the crate will help to recovery?
    2- Should we run the 8 weeks strict crate time for her?
    3- Can she go out for minutes to exercise the legs? Can the extremities get worse without use?
    4- Should I massage her as I did every morning when she wakes up?
    5- Should I take her with the crate to some areas of the house since she must not go downstairs ?
    We are trying to do the right and safe thing for her without surgery at this age.
    Thank you, for any help since is very hard and heart breaking see my baby going down ..
    The only answers I get are surgery or euthanasia and those are not options for us ( my pet and me)

    1. Hi Betty –

      A few questions (and hello):

      1 What is the diagnosis
      2 Why is she on crate rest
      3 What sort of surgery?

      And I personally would not do euthanasia based on what you said.

      I would have the MRI.
      It is manageable – not easy – but manageable. She even has to express her dog’s bladder every few hours for years but the dog is happy and healthy and living with IVDD.

  37. My dog has Ivdd and she’s on her second set of roid shots unfortunately I’m not wealthy but I don’t feel a loss on the 2 loans I got out for her vet care she’s our baby. But I looked this up for tips I got the proper carrying down. Supporting the dogs back no stairs and soft food for the dog. She’s not allowed on slippery surfaces. She’s been doggy resting like the vet recommended. Were past the point of surgery for her but I don’t got 5000
    dollars for it. I do what I can for her and she’s improving not perfect but she’s home and happy. Were building here wheel chair an we finaly got the measurements down.

  38. Our 9yo basset girl was diagnosed two weeks ago. She is on bed rest and meds. At her two week check she seemed to be doing better howerver today was not so good. She has been squatting but not peeing, thus after she emptied bowel and bladder. Resting her and will notify vet in the morning. I would love to get advice.

  39. Having a hard time dealing with Bentley’s IVDD. Does surgery work? Anything that anyone can say to let me know the road ahead would be greatly appreciated. Have your dogs lived for years after being diagnosed with this disease of the spine? Thanks

  40. My approximately 11 year old rescue dachsie suddenly became wobbly, lost the ability to use her back legs and was in extreme pain. Our regular vet referred us to the local university animal hospital, where she underwent emergency hemilaminectomy($6000). I had to do it, she was still my baby. 4 months later, she has overdone it and has injured an area near the surgery site. She was in terrible pain, so back to the U, where we decided to pursue medical management. She has been on mostly crate rest, along with meds, and in two weeks, she has progressed to being able to hold her urine until I express her bladder(she does posture to pee while I am expressing, so lifting her tail and crouching on her back legs),can bear weight on her back legs for a short time, can feel when I tickle her back feet and can wag her tail. I remain hopeful that she will eventually be able to walk on her own.

    1. Thanks for sharing this story and we hope your baby continues to recover. Keep us posted if you would.

  41. Hi Im so glad i have found this site. My 4 year old cocker spaniel Lexi had two discs removed in May and has been diagnosed with IVDD. We were doing so well with rehab, she had gone from partial paralysis of hind legs to almost no deficit. She had hydro weekly and physical therapy daily ( I am a physical therapist/chiropractor so handy)
    Some of my patients commented on the £8000 it cost me to fix her, my retort was would you be shocked if i just told you I had had a new kitchen for £8000, NO you would probably say it was cheap! So I guess it shows what sort of person you are…I have been that disgusted I have removed them from my clinic, I just don’t want people like that in my space.

    She is my life and I would sell a kidney for her if I had to! Unfortunately she has had a relapse and it has spiralled me in to a mild depression. I just dont know what is right for her. The neurologist has suggested to hold off the scan and crate rest for a month. Its so hard as she wants to run etc. I have had differing opinions from vets etc with what I should allow, she is such a vibrant active dog, flushing pheasants etc, playing ball, it is such a nightmare to find the balance.

    1. I am very glad you find this site helpful. I am sorry your Lexi is going through this. Have you tried the GingerLead to help her walk?

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