Disc Disease

Disc disease (Type I)

Typically small, chondrodystrophic (short-leg, long-backed) breeds, Beagles, occasionally larger breeds. This is a now known genetic disorder where the normally gelatinous ‘cushion’ of the center of the intervertebral disc undergoes a specific type of degeneration and mineralization. Many times, this mineralized disc material extrudes through the outer fibrous portion of the disc and results in compression of the spinal cord. Signs can range from pain only up to being paralyzed with no ability to feel their limbs.

Prognosis for these patients can be very good with surgical decompression of the spinal cord, however, prognosis is highly correlated with neurological function, so with more severe of clinical signs, the chances of recovery become very small.

Indications for referral/surgery:

  1. Severe neurological signs (impaired or loss of ability to move limbs - paralysis)
  2. Rapidly progressive neurological signs
  3. No response to conservative treatment
  4. Repeated episodes following conservative treatment

Good post-operative care is essential for the best recovery possible. Clients can learn about at-home physical therapy exercises on the UC Davis YouTube page.

Disc disease (Type II)

 Usually larger breeds of dogs, middle-aged to older. This type of disc degeneration happens to all animals and people as they age – the gelatinous ‘cushion’ of the disc slowly degenerates, and the fibrous disc bulges out to compress the spinal cord or nerves over time.

This type of disc disease may respond well to medical management, and many times that is preferred over surgical intervention.