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Intervertebral Disc Disease
Intervertebral Disc Intervertebral Disc (Slipped Disc)

The spine is the name given to the collection of bones (vertebrae) inside which the spinal cord is contained. The spinal cord is made of cables of nerves (like wires running in an electrical cable), linking the brain to the local nerves that control the movement of limbs and other functions (the peripheral nervous system). The intervertebral disc is a spongy, doughnut shaped pad in the main joint between the vertebrae. The disc lies just underneath the spinal cord in dogs and cats. Each disc has a liquid centre (nucleus pulposus) and a tougher outer fibrous layer (annulus fibrosus). The discs form a bridge between two neighbouring vertebrae and act as a cushion, giving strength and flexibility to the spine.
Why does a disc slip?
A slipped disc can happen in 2 ways:
1: Rupture of a healthy disc can be caused by trauma (such as a road traffic accident, or a fall from height) with tearing of the annulus fibrosus.
2: Degeneration of the disc is a result of a premature aging process. This causes progressive thickening of the dorsal (top) part of the annulus fibrosus which presses up on the spinal cord (disc protrusion). Disc degeneration can also result in the regions of the spine which are particularly exposed to physical stress (lower neck, mid back and lower back). Degeneration can also result in stiffening of the disc as the semi liquid centre becomes dry and loses its cushioning properties. If this happens the annulus fibrosus can tear allowing the, now stiff, nucleus to bulge out and put pressure on the spinal cord (disc extrusion). As seen in diagram 2 Herniated Disc

How would I know if my pet has a slipped disc?
Spinal pain is the most common sign of disc disease. If your pet has spinal pain they will adopt abnormal posture low head carriage, rounding the back, be reluctant to move or exercise, cry when moving around. A slipped disc can put pressure on the spinal cord, this damages the nerves. If the disc slips suddenly there may also be bleeding into the spine which puts even more pressure on the nerves. This can cause any or all of the following signs: loss of coordination, weakness, paralysis, lameness, faecal or urinary incontinence, loss of sensation in the legs.

How will my vet know what is wrong with my pet?
If your pet has any signs of back problems or lameness your vet will want to perform a full neurological examination.
Diagnosis of a slipped disc is rarely possible using standard x-rays alone. A standard x-ray can only show the bones of the vertebrae and not the joints between them (the discs) or the spinal cord running inside them. Sometimes changes can be seen on conventional x-rays suggest disc degeneration without the animal showing any signs. A definite diagnosis of a slipped disc can be made using either myelography (X-rays taken after the injection of dye around the spinal cord), CT (COMPUTED TOMOGRAPHY) or MRI (MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING). These special tests help to confirm if there is a slipped disc, where it is and will also show up other causes of spinal pain or paralysis if they are present.

Will my pet need an operation?
In most cases a slipped disc should be considered to be a surgical disease except where:
"This is the first time the animal has had back pain
"The animal has had a medical condition that contraindicates general anaesthesia.
"Or if the animal has minimal spinal cord compression and it is suspected that spinal bruising is responsible for most of the signs.
Non-surgical treatment consists of strict rest, in a cage or room, (depending on the size of your pet), for at least 4 weeks and treatment with drugs that will reduce inflammation and pain. Your vet will want to see your pet regularly to ensure that they are not getting worse without surgery.

Will my pet recover without surgery?
Although surgical treatment is often preferred, 4 out of 5 dogs that are weak or paralysed in their back legs will make a good recovery without surgery provided that they have good sensation in the affected limbs. However these dogs may take a long time to recover - from 6 to 12 weeks before they can walk. Unfortunately, about one-third of the dogs that recover suffer a second episode of disc disease later in life and a significant proportion of dogs in this category will be left with some permanent defect, such as wobbliness.

It is important to remember if surgery is your only option it is more successful if carried out within the first 48 hours of onset of syptoms.

Should you be told your Basset Hound needs to be rested or its movement restricted and you don't know what you need or what you should do, don't worry - all you need to know is here
What happens with a 'herniated disc'?
As the spinal disc becomes less elastic, it can rupture. When the disc ruptures, a portion of the spinal disc pushes outside its normal boundary--this is called a herniated disc. When a herniated disc bulges out from between the vertebrae, the spinal nerves and spinal cord can become pinched. There is normally a little extra space around the spinal cord and spinal nerves, but if enough of the herniated disc is pushed out of place, then these structures may be compressed.
Should you be told your puppy needs to be rested or its movement restricted and you don't know what you need or what you should do, don't worry - all you need to know is here
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