Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a degenerative disease that can affect your dog’s spinal cord and causes a range of painful mobility issues. Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) in dogs can also be described as a ruptured, slipped, bulging or herniated disk. This condition is most commonly seen in beagles, dachshunds, Pekingese, Shih Tzus, basset hounds, or American cocker spaniels but may occur in dogs of any breed. IVDD is a serious condition that is French Bulldogs are genetically predisposed to due to being “low rider dogs” aka dogs with short legs.
What is French Bulldog IVDD?
Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a condition in which the buffer discs between the vertebrae of the spine protrude or burst (protrude) into the space of the spinal cord. These discs then press on the nerves running through the spinal cord, causing pain, nerve damage, and even paralysis.
IVDD is a condition that affects the spinal cord over time, but it may not be obvious until it is triggered. Unfortunately, one day a seemingly perfectly healthy dog may fall or jump and rupture a disc. IVDD is a degenerative (progressive) process, but jumping or falling can damage discs already weakened by IVDD and cause the disease to enter the acute phase.
How to recognize the symptoms of IVDD in French Bulldogs?
Symptoms of IVDD depend on the location of the disc problem (neck and back) and the severity of the spinal cord injury.
Symptoms of a herniated disc in the neck may include:
1.Bowed head, hunched back, crying, not wanting to lift head, ears back, excessive panting and neck muscle spasms.
2.Wobbly or tipsy on all fads. Sometimes French bulldogs may drag their toenails or occasionally trip and fall on their limbs.
3.Unable to walk on all fours.
Symptoms of a herniated disc in the back may include:
1.Back pain, tight abdomen, do not want to eat, hug up to cry, do not want to jump.
2.Walking with wobbly hind legs or drunkenness. They may scrape their toes or criss-cross their limbs.
3.Hind limbs unable to walk, hind limbs dragging.
Diagnosing and reversing/treating IVDD
Tests for diagnosing Intervertebral Disc Disease typically include standard x-rays, a neurological exam, and/or MRI to help locate the disc or discs causing your dog’s symptoms. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is the best way to diagnose IVDD. CT scans can sometimes diagnose IVDD but can miss many other causes. Myelography is an older test that is not recommended since it is more invasive and complications can arise.
Diagnosis and treatment of disc disease need to be initiated as early as possible to achieve good results. This is why if you notice signs of IVDD in your dog, we recommend that you take your dog to the vet for a full check-up. Delays in treatment can lead to irreversible damage.
If your dog is diagnosed with mild to moderate IVDD injury, the first treatment option is crate rest and medication (anti-inflammatory drugs, painkillers, muscle relaxants, etc.). This applies to dogs with mild signs only pain or slight shaking when walking to help reduce pain and swelling, and strictly reduce activity for about 4-6 weeks.
Crate rest involves being confined to a small crate. They can have a bed, food, water and toys as long as they don’t manhandle them. Time outside the crate should be limited to a short 5-10 minute walk with a belt and harness.
Surgery is often recommended for dogs with more severe cases of disc disease because rest and medication are not enough to reduce pain and other symptoms. During the procedure, your dog’s veterinarian will remove the hardened disc material that is pressing on your dog’s spinal cord and causing IVDD symptoms.
The results were most successful in dogs that had not lost the ability to walk. If your dog’s surgery has not been successful in restoring your pet to normal mobility, a dog wheelchair can help your puppy enjoy a happy and active life while suffering from disc disease.
Recovery from IVDD surgery requires 6-8 weeks of restricted activity. Running, climbing stairs, playing with other dogs, or jumping on furniture needs to be prevented to avoid further injury while the dog’s spine heals.
After surgery, your veterinarian may also recommend physical therapy for your dog to build muscle strength and help your French Bulldog move comfortably again. The active stimulation provided by heat therapy reduces pain. The stimulation also causes the release of opioids in the spinal cord and brain. A combination of pain relief, increased circulation, and early mobility leads to improved healing.
Dogs with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) can benefit from heat therapy 72 hours after the event or surgery. Localized heat to the area of concern should be applied for 15 to 20 minutes four times a day. Massage therapy and passive range of motion exercise is good during and after the heat therapy.
Prevent IVDD in French Bulldogs
IVDD isn’t something all French Bulldogs develop. A genetic predisposition doesn’t equal disease onset. However it is very important to follow these preventative measures to lower the possibility of your French Bulldog being affected as much as possible.
One of the best things to do is to ensure you keep your dog’s weight within limits. Extra weights around the neck and back region, increases its chance of coming down with IVDD. The ideal body shape is one where the waist can be visible, and ribs easily felt.
Use a harness
Using a collar can cause difficulty in breathing for your French bulldog, which predisposes it to IVDD. It is advisable to use a harness when walking your French Bulldog.
Reduce jumping around
Managing a dog’s excitement is vital to preventing severe spinal cord injury. Jumping up or climbing the stairs takes a toll on your French Bulldog’s back. So, limit the use of stairs/platforms if possible.
Develop healthy eating habits
Give your French bulldog a high-quality diet that includes animal protein, the prime ingredient for muscle growth. Unfortunately, 99 percent of whole grains on the market don’t contain enough meat, or should we say anything,
Your French bulldog needs to eat raw food, including raw meat bones, meat, and organs. These bones will build a solid skeleton for your dog, unlike the artificial calcium supplements found in dog food.
Do not Spay/Neuter until your dog is fully grown
You can stunt your dogs growth by spaying/neutering early on. Let your French Bulldog grow fully before committing to the procedure. Fixing your puppy at an early age not only puts them at risk for IVDD, but also puts them at risk for hip dysplasia, obesity and bone cancer.