Dogs with severe IVDD can leave their owner with a difficult decision. Spinal surgery is not an option for every dog and owner. Non-surgical treatment can be attempted but if this is also out of the question, or if this fails, then which other options are available? Some dogs live a happy life as permanently disabled, using wheels to get about. Whether this is an option for your dog depends on his general health, body shape and personality, and on whether you’re around during the day to care for him.
If your dog is badly affected by IVDD, and if there is no appropriate, realistic or effective treatment available, then you may unfortunately have to consider the last resort option of euthanasia. It can be a blessing to have the option of euthanasia available when needed.
It is worthwhile to discuss the option of euthanasia with your vet if you find yourself in this position. Think it through carefully and don’t be rushed into a decision. In deciding whether or not to put a dog to sleep, we have to weigh up all the different issues:
- If the dog is given treatment that you can afford, then what are his chances of returning to a reasonable quality of life? Your vet can work out how badly your dog is affected and can advise you on his chances of recovery.
- Will you be able to care for your dog throughout recovery and, if not, are there people who can be trusted to help you? Basic care and nursing skills can be learned and will soon become routine. However, some owners do not have the time to care for a recovering dog, e.g. due to long working hours. If you are physically unable to bend or crouch down to help your dog, then this may also present a major problem.
- If vets are convinced that your dog is not going to walk again, then could it be a fair option to manage him in wheels as permanently disabled? In this case, he may also have long term incontinence problems. Consider both your lifestyle and your dog’s personality when thinking this through.
There is one small group of IVDD dogs for whom euthanasia is always the best decision: A very small number of severely-affected dogs are unlucky enough to go downhill with PMM (progressive myelomalacia) during the first few days of their illness. There is no cure for this painful and unpleasant condition so, for dogs with PMM, euthanasia is the only kind choice and should be performed sooner rather than later.
In other cases, there may be several issues relating to both the owner and the dog that combine to make euthanasia the only kind choice. It may be that the dog is very badly affected and that the likelihood of recovery is very low, or that treatment has already been attempted , has failed, and there is no way forward. Perhaps the owner cannot afford either surgery or non-surgical treatment, or is unable to care for a recovering dog because they are themselves ill or are currently struggling to care for an ill family member. However, it’s obviously essential not to rush into making such an important and irreversible decision. Think it all through, explain your situation to the vet and ask their advice.
For dogs with IVDD: further information
This website contains plenty of information about caring for a dog with back or neck issues. Try going to IVDD and clicking on links on that page to start exploring this free resource.
For a complete and practical guide to home care, we recommend The IVDD Handbook. This is a comprehensive home care guide for dogs with IVDD (disc extrusion or ‘slipped disc’). It’s also suitable for those with certain other back or neck problems including FCE and traumatic disc. Use this book in conjunction with talking to your own vet. It contains:
- clear practical guidelines for each stage of recovery
- notes on decision-making, to help you make choices when your vet asks you to do so
- illustrated how-to guides for everything from sling-walking to home exercises
- notes on when to contact your vet
- advice on what to do before switching to wheels, and how to get started with wheels
- advice on keeping your recovering dog happy and content
- a section on maintaining your own wellbeing and getting the support you need
- example daily routines suitable for dogs at each stage of recovery
- hundreds of colour photos showing what to look for and how to help your dog
- an index, glossary and colour-coded chapter to help you find information fast.
How to get your copy
Click here to buy or look inside The IVDD Handbook.
Order the book to be delivered to you from the US if you live in Australia, New Zealand or Singapore. For further details, click here.
Links to the book on this page are provided as part of the Amazon Associates program. Buying the book after clicking on one of these links will earn the author a small commission, thus contributing to the ongoing running of this website.
Booking an appointment
For bespoke supervision of your own dog’s recovery, you are welcome to contact me to arrange a video consultation appointment. To book an appointment, use the contact form here or email me at Marianne@ajdorn.plus.com. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Please note that these contact details are for appointments only. I offer home visit appointments, when appropriate, for dogs and cats living near me in North Herts, UK. Video consultations are available for both local and distant patients.