This week’s guest blogger is Lisa Luckenbach. Lisa is the founder and creator of WiggleLess® Back Braces for dogs. Read about her personal struggle caring for dogs with IVDD, some tips and medications that help dogs with IVDD, and her back braces that can help ease the pain.
The actual Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) diagnosis was a shock to us all. Having had dogs my whole life, I thought I knew the source of Henry’s symptoms. I thought the origin of Henry’s pain was stemming from his muscles, tendons, and ligaments but after taking him to my Vet, I learned the victims were his vertebral discs.
Intervertebral Disc Disease
Since I was still somewhat ignorant to the world of IVDD years ago, when Henry and his younger sister June were both diagnosed, I thought… how could this be? How could Henry have the exact same diagnosis as June? June is much younger and far more active! We soon learned that IVDD is a degenerative disease that affects countless breeds at various ages and activity levels. It occurs when discs in the spinal column begin to shift so much so that they protrude outward, pressing against the spinal cord and its nerves. We also learned that there are two types of IVDD and yes, both young and old dogs can have it!
Type I can affect dogs at any age, and is mostly seen in (but not limited to) chrondrodystrophic dogs, or dogs bred to be shorter and stockier. (Bassett hounds, Corgis, etc.) This type occurs when a dog’s spine experiences a sudden impact that causes the disc to shift out of place.
Type II – the type Henry was diagnosed with — is more gradual but the results are the same: pressure on the spinal cord and its nerves caused by a bulging disc. Type II IVDD affects older dogs between the ages of 8 and 15 by its very nature, and isn’t targeted to primarily chrondrodystrophic breeds.
For both types, rest, laser light therapy, anti-inflammatories, and even surgery are the common protocol and can aid in helping to manage, if not completely relieve, dog back pain; however, older dogs suffering from Type I are less likely to bounce back as quickly as younger dogs and are more likely to experience continual back problems.
Our lives changed forever when June and Henry were diagnosed with IVDD and a big part of my life revolved around finding ways to make their pain go away. Emergency room visits, strong medication and complete crate rest were not what I’d envisioned when we brought our puppies home and caring for a dog with IVDD can be tough emotionally. It was hard for me to watch my pups not be able to play and jump around like ‘normal’ dogs, hear them whimper in pain, and watch them have muscle spasms. No dog mom wants to see their pups not well.
I had always felt a special kinship with animals and had been trained in animal massage therapy as well as animal communication. Instinctively I knew my dogs needed more than strong medication and crate rest. My most important goal for my pups became returning them to a happy, pain free life. The journey was long with my first two dachshunds; however, thankfully understanding the world of IVDD, and managing the pain our pups can sometimes feel, is becoming easier to do as we learn more and more about this dreaded disease and the many preventative and supportive measures we can take as pet parents. We are also sharing more stories of how we can make strides towards wellness and bring relief to our fur babies.
There is so much helpful advice these days on the web to help you and your little sufferers live a high quality life with IVDD- the key words being HIGH QUALITY LIFE! – here are a few tips I found especially helpful during recovery:
Diet – maintain your dog’s healthy weight to reduce stress on their backbone and neck.
Food – moisten kibble or feed them wet food. Chewing can cause stress on the jaw and neck, which can result in pain. Same goes for chew toys or treats. Abstain from these during the recovery period.
Eliminate stress on back and neck – raise food and water bowls so that your dog doesn’t have to bend down to eat or drink; keep the crate your pup is recovering in at a higher level so that he doesn’t have to raise his head to look at you or his surroundings.
Acupuncture Therapy – this is particularly good for dogs that respond poorly to or cannot tolerate medication. Surgery may not be an option due to health or finances. Acupuncture may be one option to look into, as it regenerates neurons mobilizing stem cell regrowth.
Laser Light Therapy – although costly, LT has been proven to reduce tenderness, pain and speed up the tissue healing process.
Back support – after a period of recovery, it is important to keep your dog’s back stable and straight. Wearing a back brace such as WiggleLess® puts less pressure on your dog’s spine and may help him or her to have a more enjoyable and normal life.
Environment – lots of love, comfort, warmth, encouragement, and a peaceful environment. Dogs get stressed out just like us humans do. Stress makes it hard to heal!
Your veterinarian will determine the best medical protocol for IVDD and your dog. If your dog is in severe back pain due to IVDD, one or more of the following medications may be prescribed:
Steroids: They are anti-inflammatories and immune system suppressors. They are good especially if given in the vein the first 8 hours or by shot in the muscle, and followed by pills at home. The most commonly used are: prednisone and dexamethasone. Accompany with a stomach protector such as Pepcid (famotidine).
NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs): they are anti-inflammatories, and also have pain killing properties too. They must never be mixed with steroids or the NSAID aspirin. The most commonly used are: Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Previcox or Metacam. Accompany with a stomach protector such as Pepcid (famotidine).
Muscle Relaxers: During a herniation a dog can have nasty muscle spasms. Muscle relaxers help prevent them and they also help keep the dog calm while in crate rest. The most commonly used are: Methocarbamol and Valium.
Pain Killers or Analgesics: They help through the healing period by making your dog more comfortable. The most commonly used are: Tramadol or a Fentanyl patch.
WiggleLess® for IVDD
WiggleLess® was created to do one simple thing: HELP DOGS! There are wonderful pet lovers out there and I come across amazing parents every day who make my work incredibly rewarding. June and Henry have both passed on (not from back problems), but they were the inspiration behind WiggleLess® and I am determined to share what I know and continue to learn with anyone who loves dogs as much as I do.
With the right diagnosis and the right treatment, IVDD is manageable, and remembering the simple ingredients it takes to make your dog feel loved and happy is top of the list. At WiggleLess®, we strive weekly to work with the local community and our friends across the US and abroad to bring IVDD to the forefront of the pet community so we can all learn and share but most of all help all our beloved dogs to live the longest, healthiest lives possible.
AUTHOR BIO: Lisa Luckenbach has developed WiggleLess® back braces for dogs that are overweight and need extra support, elderly with aching backs, diagnosed with IVDD-related back problems, or overly active and can benefit from the structure a dog back brace provides. In addition to running WiggleLess®, 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.