Veterinary Technician Examining Dachshund in Animal Hospital

I’ve Got Your Back: Solutions for Disc Disease & Seizures

Reading Time: 6 MIN


Worldwide, 9 plus million dogs suffer from disc disease. IVDD is a disease characterized by the herniation of disk material in the vertebral canal (herniated disc) and the subsequent compression and injury of the spinal cord.

donut cruller isolated on white. Krapfen

IVDD is like a ruptured jelly donut. A normal intervertebral disc consists of a nucleus pulposus surrounded by the annulus fibrosus (i.e., like a jelly donut). A diseased disc suffers from compression caused by an extruded nucleus (Hansen Type 1) or a thickening annulus (Hansen Type 2).

IVDD Reality

Typically, this will present in a dog with difficulty walking. Symptoms will depend on the area of the spinal cord that is affected.

Causes of IVDD Vary

The root cause is the degeneration of the disc. The disease is most common in dwarf breeds like dachshunds, beagles, and French bulldogs, as well as small breeds like Maltese, Pekingese, chihuahuas, etc. Excessive/extreme activity can also contribute to disc disease.

How to Diagnose IVDD

To start, the severity of the symptoms is assessed during a general exam using the Modified Frankel Score. There are 5 levels, with Level 1 being pain only and Level 5 begin plegic with no deep pain. Level 5 is the worst-case scenario.

The area that’s affected will also need to be determined, as symptom assessment suggests location of the herniated disc. If the area is cervical spine, the dog will have weak limbs and/or be high stepping. They will exhibit neck pain and display low head carriage. If the affected area is thoracolumbar, the dog will have weak back legs, TL pain, and urinary/fecal incontinence (paralyzed). If the area is lumbar, the dog will have weak back legs, lumbar pain, urinary/fecal incontinence (not paralyzed), and low tail carriage. If the affected area is caudal spine, the dog will exhibit weak tail wagging, severe tail pain, and a crooked tail.

A vet is examining a chihuahua by listening to the dogs heartbeat.

Neurological Exam and Diagnostics

X-rays, liver and kidney profile, and blood work will be taken as well as a CT scan and MRI scan to make an official diagnosis.


There are two main options. Medical management is usually chosen when the Frankel Score is 1 or 2. This consists of strict activity restriction for 2-6 weeks. The dog will be crate rested when unsupervised to keep them from moving around too much. Also, treatment will include anti-inflammatory medications like steroids or NSAID, pain relief medications, and muscle relaxants.

Surgical management is another option; the type of surgery will depend on the location of the herniated disc. If there’s a herniated disc in the neck, a ventral slot compression is performed. If it’s in the lower back, a dorsal laminectomy is performed. If it’s in the middle of the back, which is most common, a hemilaminectomy is performed.


The recovery will depend on the Frankel Score severity. Dogs with level 1 – 4 will be in the hospital for 3-5 days after surgery. Dogs that have reached level 5 will typically need 2 weeks of recovery as well as further activity restriction. Physical therapy that are dogs that are level 1-4 will last 4-8 weeks, while a dog at level 5 will need 2-4 months of physical therapy.

Prevention Can Minimize Risk

A dachshund puppy, black and tan, sits on a special ramp for dog with long spine and short paws to prevent traumas at home. Safe of back health in a small pet.

Discourage jumping onto and off furniture. Add ramps to get on and off furniture. Avoid play that involves sharp starts and stops and quick changes in direction.

Percutaneous Laser Disc Ablation (PLDA)

This is a minimally invasive prophylactic laser procedure and is performed through spinal needles inserted through the skin into the thoracolumbar disc spaces. This procedure is revolutionizing the field for high-risk breeds. PLDA is designed to reduce the risk of disc herniation in chondrodystrophic patients and those with previous episodes of IVDD.

Complications with this procedure are exceedingly rare. These include back pain, ataxia, and abscess of insertion site.

PLDA is highly effective. Dogs are discharged after just one day. The risk of disc herniation significantly decreases with this procedure from 20 – 25% before down to around 3 – 10% after PLDA. Only 2.6% of dogs ever required surgery post-PLDA in one study.

PLDA is a highly specialized approach and only available at 3 facilities in the country currently. If you would like to learn more, please contact Dr. Tracy at

Seizures in Dogs

older blonde dog's face resting on floor
The lonely dog lay down on the ground and think about when boos come back

A seizure is cerebral (forebrain) disturbance characterized by abnormal electrical activity of the brain leading to the over signs known as “seizures, epilepsy, or convulsions.” These are characterized by sudden loss of consciousness and/or loss of control of a muscle group.

Common causes of seizures include metabolic disorder, brain tumor, toxin ingestion, trauma, birth defects, and idiopathic epilepsy.

Diagnosing Seizures

To diagnose seizures, the type of seizure must be identified. Focal seizures involve small muscle groups, and the dog usually remains conscious. Absent seizures occur when your dog stares off or zones out. He or she may fall over or lose consciousness. Generalized seizures (“Grand Mal”) are full body, include loss of consciousness, can last for 30 seconds to 3 minutes, and involve involuntary jerking/twitching.

Vets will diagnose via a general history of the event and how often it has occurred. They will also look at lab work such as a general chemistry, CBC, and a urinalysis. Advanced diagnostic testing will be performed which can include a brain MRI or CSF analysis.


The age of your dog can suggest the cause of the seizure. If dogs that have a seizure are less than a year old, typical cause may include a birth defect, metabolic disease, toxin ingestion, or meningitis. Dogs that are 1- 6 years old may have idiopathic epilepsy, meningitis, and toxin ingestion. For dogs over 6 years, the cause of a seizure could be a brain tumor, stroke, metabolic disease, or toxin ingestion.

Seizure Treatment

Treatment of seizures will depend on the underlying cause. Idiopathic epilepsy will require anti-seizure medications. Meningitis will require anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive medications. For a brain tumor, treatments include brain surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.

Anti-seizure Medications

Different dogs respond differently to medications. Once the treatment is started, it is typically given for life. Most common medications include phenobarbital, potassium bromide, levetiracetam (Keppra), zonisamide, and topiramate. Good seizure control is 1 seizure every 2 – 3 months or 50% reduction in overall frequency.

Owners Should Go to the Hospital ASAP

When a dog has “cluster seizures”, which is 3 or more in a 24-hour period, your dog should see a vet immediately. Same goes for seizures lasting 5 minutes or longer.

Identify Trends

Hands of woman taking notes of online lecture webinar in notebook. Student, author, writer writing on paper page of journal or diary, holding pen, preparing text, making memo for article. Close up

Owners can identify trends with their dog’s seizures by maintaining a seizure log. Be sure to note the date, time, length of the seizure, the nature of the seizure, and any associated events such as playing or a grooming visit.

Seizure management in pets is more of an art than a science, and each pet can respond differently to medication, so open communication and interaction between the veterinarian and the pet owner is a MUST when managing seizures.


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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Karin LAURA

    Unable to join I registered and just watched the video link emailed. This was excellent. I’m convinced after watching this my 14 yr. old min pin suffered from IVDD. She had liver issues, seizures then had difficulty walking. I described to my vet she walked like she was drunk, same as mentioned in the video. My vet unfortunately advised me it was a neurological and recommended euthanasia which I sadly agreed to. This was 9 years ago. I cannot thank you enough for coordinating and offering this class. Amazing opportunity to have this access. I am much more informed for any future issues with my fur babies going forward.

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