We attended the presentation on intervertebral disc disease presented by Dr Randy Longshore DVM of Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists.
Anybody who reads this and wants to add more in the comments (whether they attended or not) please feel free to do so. I may edit the first page to include the comments.
He talked about the types of IVDD and did a good job of explaining them in layman’s terms:
Hansen’s Type I – explosive rupture which emplodes fluid into the spinal column – often at 4-6 years of age
Hansen’s Type II – a rupture which slowly leaks fluid
Hansen’s Type III – rupture due to traumatic injury
Type III was a recent addition in terminology. The difference between Type I and III is that Type I is from a degeneration and III is from an injury.
Dr Longshore went on to say that dwarf dogs such as dachshunds and corgis almost always have an explosive rupture (Type I). He feels it is hereditary, though we didn’t go into the exact method in which achondroplasia affects bone development. He did mention the fact that changes in the discs often start at an early age.
He feels that the following are not pertinent to disc rupture:
1) The weight and condition of the dog
2) The activity level of the dog
3) supplements sold on the internet purporting to aid in back health are of no value
However, good conditioning of the dog at the time of surgery can lead to an easier and earlier recovery.
If your dog is exhibiting symptoms please do not resort to chiropractic solutions. Imagine what applying force to a disc which is about to rupture can do.
He showed us several examples of views of calcified and ruptured discs take with 1) x-rays, 2) myelograms, 3) CT scans, and 4) MRI. Things learned:
1) the x-ray doesn’t show you much. It’s fairly easy to see calcified discs, but you won’t see the actual rupture.
2) myelogragraphy – if your vet is using that, you are getting 1990’s technology. It does show more than an x-ray as you can see the point where the dye stops. There is also a danger of seizure following a myelogram.
3) CT scans and MRIs are both effective at showing the actual site of the rupture. (Of course for some of us in the boonies finding a nearby veterinary MRI facility in an emergency is not possible).
We watched an interesting video showing an actual surgery, showing the white disc material (looks like cottage cheese) suctioned out.
Dr Longshore touched on the difference in symptoms and onset of IVDD and DM and brushed on the genetics involved.
Symptoms of disc rupture in range of severity:
2) loss of proprioception – the sense of where the body is in relation to space
3) loss of mobility
4) loss of superficial pain sensation
5) loss of deep pain sensation (i.e. bone)
To test loss of proprioception, you can turn a dog’s rear foot over. The dog will normally right it automatically. If a dog comes in already not walking there is no need for that test. Similarly if a dog comes in to the practice still mobile, there is no need to test for loss of pain perception.
We were given statistics about recurrence rates with and without surgery for different levels of damage.
We watched a video of dogs with disc problems in the neck area, and how they held their heads.
We watched a video of a recovering dog with partial mobility on the ground and on a underwater treadmill.
After the seminar, I went up to the doctor and told him about Ethan’s case. From the symptoms and the time frame he guessed that the problem was (as posted on Mandy’s FB thread) ascending myelomalacia. He didn’t give us any statistics for how often it happens, but I would guess that “rarely” is thankfully correct. As I understood the explanation, the dying nerve cells in the spinal cord release a toxic substance. That toxic substance kills the next cell in line, which releases a substance killing the next cell in line, and so forth. At some point it reaches the nerves that control the muscles of the diaphragm which are necessary for the dog to breathe. At that point it is invariably fatal. A fever often accompanies the process as the body looses its ability to control temperature.
I’m not sure that makes it easier to deal with, but it is at least an explanation.