I received this question from a blog reader the other day: “How many cases have you encountered of repeat Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD) and what amount resulted in a second surgery?”
The woman said she found little information online regarding Dachshunds who experience a spinal injury related to IVDD a second time.
Since I have a decent perspective on this, I thought I would write up an answer since I’m sure she is not the only one with this question.
To be clear, I am not a veterinarian.
However, I do receive dozens of emails a year from readers sharing stories about their Dachshund with IVDD.
One of my Dachshunds has IVDD and I have thoroughly researched the disease both online and by consulting with several specialists.
Also, founded a Dachshund club almost 10 years ago and, through the years, I’ve had exposure to IVDD cases with over 100 member dogs.
This reader’s question is really twofold. But first, before addressing her questions, let’s be clear on something
Can IVDD Reoccur?
I know this is semantics but it’s an important matter to me because I want people to really understand IVDD and what they can and can’t do about it.
IVDD is a disease. Your dog either has it or doesn’t.
Therefore, the answer to “Can IVDD Reoccur?” is it never goes away.
To me, this is a very important distinction to make because once a dog suffers and IVDD related injury, and is diagnosed, you may want to make some lifestyle changes to minimize the chances of another injury.
There will always be a risk that a Dachshund with IVDD could injure their back again but that doesn’t mean they have to live a sheltered, unfulfilling life.
Note: My personal stance is take reasonable precautions but allow your IVDD Dachshund to live a full and fulfilling life even if that means the slight presence of risk.
Also, I want people to understand that no matter how careful they are with their Dachshund, a dog with IVDD can have a second spinal injury. It’s partially out of their control (this fact can help with the major feelings of guilt).
Now, I have enough experience to understand that when people ask “Can IVDD Reoccur?” what they’re really asking is “Can a dog experience more than one injury DUE to IVDD?”
How Often Do Dachshunds With IVDD Experience More Than One Injury?
If I was going to estimate, based on my personal experience and knowledge, I would say that maybe 1/3 – 1/2 of Dachshunds have more than one occurrence of IVDD-related injury.
I generally see these two scenarios:
Number 1: A Dachshund never heals properly from the first disk injury (typically due to insufficient crate rest to allow scar tissue to form) and that same disk continues to degrade and cause pain over time.
Number 2: A Dachshund’s problem disk heals but a different disk ruptures. Sometimes this second compromised spinal disk requires conservative treatment (meds and crate rest) or surgery.
A veterinarian once told me that even if a Dachshund’s bulging or ruptured disk heals completely, IVDD makes the rest of the disks in the spine brittle and there is a 20% chance a different disk can have issues.
Upon further research into this issue, it appears that my estimate may be not too far off from the (limited available) science findings on this issue.
I found this study that said,
“Clinical signs associated with recurrence of IVDD developed in 44 (19.2%) dogs [out of 229 dogs studied – all breeds]. Ninety-six percent of recurrences developed within 3 years after surgery. Recurrence developed in 25% of Dachshunds…”
This study only involved dogs that required surgery to decompress the disk and correct the disk rupture following the first episode.
A Dachshund that has IVDD back surgery may experience another related spinal injury within 3 years.
Therefore, it’s still possible that the reoccurrence of ANY disk injury – both in dogs that had surgery the first time and those that didn’t – is closer to 50% as I observed.
How Many Dachshunds with IVDD Require a Second Surgery?
Of the cases I hear where a Dachshund with IVDD has ongoing back issues, I feel like approximately 1/4 or less have needed a second surgery or have a really bad episode again.
I’m not trying to scare you but, in a very few cases, some Dachshunds never get better in the first place.
Either the surgery doesn’t work.
“Studies have shown that with surgery for Grade 1-4 cases, more than 90% of dogs recover successfully. However, with Grade 5 IVDD, success drops to only 50-60% if the surgery occurs within 24 hours of symptoms. Additionally, if surgery is performed after that initial 24-hour window, the success rate drops dramatically.” – Dr. Julie Buzby, DVM
Note: In my experience, if the first surgery is not successful, a second surgery will not be performed on those same disks. In that case, rehab, rest, and modifications like using a Dachshund wheelchair are the primary options of when living with a Dachshund that has mobility issues.
Another scenarios is when degradation of the spinal column is so advanced that ruptures occur again one right after another (ie. surgery was successful but another disk ruptured soon after).
Unfortunately, this has led to – and I stress in very rare occasions – for a Dachshund to naturally pass away or require euthanasia to stop the suffering.
But lets focus on how many need a second surgery and recover from that one too.
Out of the hundreds of Dachshunds with IVDD I know of, probably around a dozen have needed a second surgery.
I used to walk one Dachshund that required two surgeries only 6 months apart. In her case, the rupture affected two different disks.
I have friends with a French Bulldog (Frenchie) that had IVDD and needed back surgery at least two times. It may have even been 3.
The more spinal disks affected by IVDD the first time, the greater chance a Dachshund will suffer another disk injury later.
The same study I cited above found that:
“[The] number of opacified disks [opaque on X-rays which can indicate calcification or injury] was a significant risk factor for recurrence. Risk increased with number of opacified disks in an almost linear manner; each opacified disk increased risk by 1.4 times. Dogs with 5 or 6 opacified disks at the time of first surgery had a recurrence rate of 50%.”
My estimate of 25% of Dachshunds needing a second surgery is based on reports from owners whose dogs had as few as one disk rupture to many.
This study indicates the risk of a second required surgery is higher if your dog has 5-6 disks affected the first time.
At the time of surgery, your veterinarian will share with you how many of our Dahcshund’s disks were affected so listen closely.
The greater number of affected disks, the greater the risk that a second surgery will be needed later in life so this can help you predict the likelihood for your particular dog.
I hope this has helped and given your some comfort, or at least armed you with realistic expectations.