3 Ways to Help Your Dog Live a Happy Life with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

by Victoria Runnoe March 30, 2021

3 Ways to Help Your Dog Live a Happy Life with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

Intervertebral Disc Disease or IVDD is a degeneration of the spine most often seen in small dogs and those with long backs and short legs, such as Dachshunds. IVDD often leads to significant pain, reduced motion, and even paralysis in severe cases. All of these conditions reduce the dog's quality of life. While surgery is an option, some pet parents want to avoid putting their pup under the knife. This makes many pet owners ask “Can my dog live happily with IVDD?

Luckily, the answer is YES! Here's how:

1. Maintain a Healthy Diet - Obviously, a healthy dog is one with a better quality of life. Unfortunately, without a good diet and frequent exercise, a dog is more likely to experience a number of medical issues, such as diabetes and heart problems, and their life expectancy drops. 

    • Thinner dogs are healthier dogs - Keeping a healthy weight is important for maintaining a strong back. Excess fat causes more stress on the spine, since it has to support more weight than intended. 

    • Mostly wet food diet - Since wet food is easier to consume, it requires less jaw strength to chew. Hard kibble can prove painful for a dog with severe IVDD since the extra jaw strength required to chew food puts more stress on their jaw and neck. 

2. Eliminate back stress - Reducing pressure on your dog's back helps reduce the progression of IVDD. Dogs with IVDD need special considerations in their environment, especially around changing elevation, so that they are safe from potential hazards that would deteriorate their spine further. 

    • Use raised food and water bowls - This relieves stress on the neck and spine since the pup doesn’t have to bend down as much to eat or drink.

    • Hold them with support - In fact, there is actually a right way to pick up a dog: place one hand on their chest and the other under their hind legs, creating a seat for the pup. This keeps the dog's spine aligned and supported.

    • Avoid collars and head harnesses - It’s important to realize that collars and head harnesses add stress during a walk, especially if your pup loves to tug on the leash to sniff the roses.

    • Avoid jumping - Jumping places significant stress on pups' backs when they hit the ground, especially when it's from high surfaces like couches or sitting laps. Even stairs can cause damage since some small dogs have to hop from stair to stair. Invest in ramps that allow the dog to easily get up and down from high surfaces without needing to jump.  
3. Relieve pain - Last but not least, pain management and relief is an important aspect to keep in mind for treating a dog with IVDD. Pain often causes a dog to tense up, trying to find a comfortable position while inadvertently causing more damage. Consequently, a vicious cycle of pain and deterioration ensues. The hunched position causes pain, exacerbating IVDD and spine deterioration. 
    • Medication - Inflammation and pain can be managed and significantly reduced through daily medication.

    • Dog Back Brace - The patented L'il Back Bracer is designed to help keep your dog’s back supported, alleviating pressure on the spine and stabilizing the back from both above and below. This extra support relieves pain caused by joint strain. 

    • Crate rest in a comfy crate - Crate rest involves reducing a dog's overall mobility temporarily, giving their body time to heal itself. Having a well-padded crate for your pup to rest in will ease any pressure put on their joints and especially on their back. It’s also important to keep in mind that some dogs with IVDD may lose control of their bladder, so regularly changing out their bedding will keep them comfy and clean. Raising the crate off the ground will also reduce the stress put on the pup's neck when they look up at their person.


    • Heat therapy - This relieves pain and decreases muscle tension by increasing blood flow. The Haute L'il Back Bracer combines the patented L’il Back Bracer design with the additional benefit of heat therapy with air activated, disposable heat packs.

    • Acupuncture - Pain and inflammation can be reduced by carefully placing very small needles into precise nervous system junctions. For IVDD, acupuncture is focused on the major spinal nerves, which may sound painful but actually causes the body to release different endorphins and anti-inflammatory chemicals that encourage natural healing.

    • Laser therapy - Similar to acupuncture, laser therapy focuses on the problem areas of the spine to reduce inflammation which relieves pain. Low Level and Light laser therapy are both non-thermal laser therapy forms that may reduce pain. 

    • Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) therapy - This reduces pain and swelling while increasing blood flow by gently pulsing an electromagnetic field into your pup's soft tissue, all without restricting activity. The EMbrace L'il Back System is the world's first wearable pain management therapy for dogs.


Victoria Runnoe
Victoria Runnoe