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  • Writer's pictureIN STRIDE

Can chiropractic help dogs with IVDD?

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

THIS POST IS INFORMATIONAL ONLY and is not to be misconstrued as medical advice. Please visit first with your vet if you suspect your animal has this condition

I see a lot of dogs that suffer from disc injuries. Now that your dog has been diagnosed, you might be wondering: what are my options? What do I do? How can I prevent this from getting worse?

What is a disc injury?

A typical disc injury occurs in dogs when they have a sudden acute injury (Hansen type 1) or a chronic degenerative problem (Hansen type 2). A sudden injury could be as simple as a wrong landing after jumping down from the bed and a chronic issue could be as complicated as long term arthritic changes. Every dog is different. The result is, however, the same: spinal cord compression.

What you need to know is that discs act as shock absorption between the bones. The discs are to bones what tennis shoes are to a runner; they protect from concussive force of constant gravity. When you squish a disc too hard, it's like squishing all the moisture out of a sponge or the jelly out of a jelly donut. The soft squishy material is no longer where it should be and is instead pressing backward and into the spinal canal, irritating the spinal cord and also choking off all of the vital communication from the brain. (Not to mention, it is also VERY painful due to reactive inflammation and muscle spasm.)

Spinal cord compression occurs on a spectrum: light pressure (chronic changes over time) to severe pressure (complete rupture from acute episode.)

RULES OF IVDD: An acute injury is much more likely to be surgical and a chronic problem is much more likely to respond with conservative management.

Breeds at risk of developing this condition: weenie dogs, bulldogs, basset hounds, pugs, and etc.


The series of events in disc disease

If your dog has a disc problem, things generally happen according to the size of nerve tracts. Large tracts are affected first, then small. If you suspect your dog might has a disc problem, these are the series of events things will occur.

1. Your animal will compensate / have pain:

this may manifest as walking sideways, pain upon palpation, or painful muscle spasm in certain areas.

2. Your animal will start to lose fine motor control.

They will slip, trip, knuckle, or walk around like they are drunk.

3. Your animal will lose the ability to walk.

Even when assisting them, your animal will likely struggle to bear weight on their limbs.

4. Your animal will start to lose organ function.

Most often, they will lose their ability to control their urine or feces. They will become incontinent and will be unaware of their bowel movements due to not being able to feel the urge to go.

5. Your animal will lose all feeling in their legs.

They won't feel their toes when you pinch them, will have no sense of temperature, and won't be able to control their limbs and/or tail. (If you dog is here, the problem is 95% likely surgical.)

--> Do note, that pets in recovery will regain function in reverse order of this list.


How can chiropractic care help?

Chiropractic care can play an important role in helping to manage your pet’s pain by enabling them to regain mobility and function.

It’s important for your provider know the location of your pet’s IVDD so that they can provide specific and gentle adjustments to other non-compromised areas.

Chiropractic will help to restore better alignment to the vertebrae which will help to reduce stress to the surrounding discs, spinal cord, and nerves.



Here's a couple good tips to aid in prevention:

A. Invest in a pet ramp and DISCOURAGE jumping. I do NOT recommend pet stairs.

Pet ramps are very helpful for those dogs that like to jump on and off the bed. I prefer the ones that are lined with carpet or some type of material that give your dog more traction. It is very important to minimize aggravating activity such as going from different levels (like bed to ground or getting out of the car). I do not recommend stairs because your animal has to use a lot of core and shoulder muscle strength to climb stairs and this is also irritating to the muscles that will undoubtedly go into spasm concurrently with a disc pathology.

B. Use two hands to pick up and set down your dog.

I see a lot of animal owners pick up their small dog by simply putting one hand under their dog's chest and scooping them up. This is a big no-no with a disc dog. ALWAYS make sure you have a hand under the chest and a hand under the waist or bum of your dog. This will minimize pressure put onto their spine by gravity and will alleviate a lot of unnecessary pain.

C. If you have a big dog, help them lift their hind end.

If your dog is having a flare up, please assist them with stairs, potty time, getting up, and getting in and out of the car. I am partial to this sling ( , but you can also use a towel or a cut up reusable shopping bag. You can see a how to video on how to use such devices here: (

D. Crate rest

If your dog is having a hard time getting around and you are worried about re-injury, it is better to cage your pet to have peace of mind. I recommend small dogs be crated at night to prevent jumping off the bed and all dogs be crated while you are away if they are accident prone


An IVDD success story:

Big take-away's from this article: a disc diagnosis is NOT a death sentence. Please explore your options. It might just save your pet's life.


I want to let you know you came to the right place for integrative therapies for your pet!

We are certified by the AVCA which is a top notch and rigorous certification program of 200+ hours class time followed by a written and practical board exam. We take 10 yearly hours of continuing education because we value knowing the most in order to provide the best.

When choosing adjustments for your pet, choose someone licensed, trained, and certified.

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