What Are the Chances My IVDD Dachshund Will Need a Second Surgery Later In Life?
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.
Read this if you want to understand more about Dachshund back injuries.
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.
About the Author
Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.
Thank you very much for your article. I carefully studied it, since we purchased a dachshund and are trying in every possible way to take care and protect it from all troubles. Since childhood, I dreamed of a dachshund and my dream came true, but with it the main fear. Based on this, I would like to ask under what circumstances such an injury can be obtained in a dog? I would like to reduce all risks to a minimum.
Hi James. Congratulations on making your dream come true! Please read my article on the primary cause of Dachshund back problems here: https://youdidwhatwithyourweiner.com/the-truth-about-dachshunds-and-back-problems/. In short, the primary cause is genetic and not something you can control. However, you can help minimize the frequency or severity of issues by using ramps around the house instead of letting them jump. Here is my main resource page on Dachshund back problems where you might find some helpful articles: https://youdidwhatwithyourweiner.com/inervertebral-disk-disease-ivdd-resources/
Just found this site.
Got my 8 YO dachshund with a second ivdd surgery when he was 4.
Never walked again since that.
Still has relfex in the middle of his feets and still can move his tail sometimes.
I post this to know if there is any option to let him walk again.
Thanks for your work.
(sorry for my english)
Hi Eloy. Many Dachshunds that are partially paralyzed (still have feeling) are able to recover and walk again. However, it’s either with surgery right away with recovery (if the surgery works) in about 3 months, or with conservative treatment (strict crate rest and alternative theirapies) with recovery in 3-12 months. Since it’s been 4 years, unfortunately, it’s very unlikely that your pup will walk normally again.
Thank you for this information, it is difficult to find details around the potential recovery for a second surgery. Would you have this information? The actual recovery/success rate for a 2nd IVDD surgery? I can’t find it anywhere. I have a 2.5 year old Frenchie who had IVDD repair 8 weeks ago, we are slowly transitioning from crate rest, small enclosed area rest, to increasing activity, removed all our furniture and keeping a couch we will gate off when unsupervised, and following all the protocols. He fully recovered, walking, bowel, bladder, within days after surgery. My concern is my dog has the most severe behavior issues any specialist has seen for anxiety. we are working with a famous Vet PhD psychiatrist. Every vet, he had 4 in his 2 years, told me he is their worst case, some refused to treat. Our current vet will not examine him for routine care unless we sedate him at home only so they could sedate him fully at the vet. We tried everything, 4 trainers gave up, a celebrity trainer with very high rates, we offered thousands of dollars refused his case as a lost cause, the vets will not see him without 4 staff to assist, one time they were down just one person and refused him even after home sedation, he has been on Fluoxetine and Gabapentin since we adopted him, and we give Trazodone and Sileo gel prior to the visit. I could get him to the point where he is falling over but once at the vet he bursts into action where they don’t believe I sedated him at all. The problem is he jumps high 5 ft, and we can keep him crated forever. After surgery, he was sent home on Fentanyl patch, this did little to calm him. I am a nurse who worked in neonatal intensive care, I know Fentanyl should work, this is a controlled substance that humans die from every day, our dog’s anxiety and energy is superhuman. That said, we are well aware regardless of the precautions, monitoring, routine environment and the therapies his risk for repeat surgery to unaffected discs is closer to 70%. I do want to learn everything about the 2nd surgery, risks and outcomes. Anything will help, your site is the only one with grass roots information.
Hi Lidia. I am not able to check my blog comments often in the summer because we are so busy. So I apologize for the delay. I don’t have statistics on this and I doubt they are out there. The recovery/success rate varies with each dog and situation, even for the first surgery. I can say though, that rate typically ranges from 50%-90%, in my experience. I am not aware that it’s different for a second surgery because, typically, a second surgery is in a different location on the spine altogether. I’m sorry he has such high anxiety and it makes vet visits very difficult or impossible. He’s on so many therapies and none seem to be working for the anxiety. It makes me wonder if he was born with some kind of mental imbalance. I’m not saying that to pile more on but it seems very strange that he continues to have such anxiety so I wonder if it’s something the medication can’t/wont affect or he could have a different type of evaluation to try and find a solution. In regard to the jumping, it sounds like you are doing the right thing by supervising him and keeping him off the furniture. As for the jumping, my normal response would be to start a training program to teach him not to do that. But with his mental state, I’m not sure that is possible. And perhaps you have already tried that, which is why you are reaching out to me for ideas. My only ideas are to try the training even though it doesn’t seem like it’s working or helping. It might click someday. I would look closely at when he is jumping and what he wants at the time and, more importantly, what kind of reward is he getting. I then would remove that reward so jumping is not so satisfying for him. An example, and common “reward” is attention. Even looking at him and saying no is attention so if you just keep looking straight and calmly walk away, he may start to get the hint. I would also look at ways you can physically control him from jumping. For example, does he jump when you come home? If so, keep him in a crate and don’t let him out right when you get home. Instead, don’t even acknowledge him and go about your business until he calms down. Then let him out but don’t make a scene about it – acting and talking excited. By de-escalating his anxiety/excitement first, he may be less likely to jump. Good luck!
Thank you for your reply Jessica, I also have not been on this site for a very long time, in regard to my Frenchie, he is 3.5 years now, and yes, he has major mental problems, we are working with a great psychiatrist and he is on neuro-inhibitors, which actually are working, he is more like a normal dog with the current dosing. We have been very careful with him, he’s had swim therapy and on the surface looks like the healthiest dog, people comment about how sturdy and strong he looks all the time, joking about him looking like a tough guy, however, he is weak, he recently started periods of limping (a few weeks) where we limit his activity, he has been doing well for a few months but in the last 2-weeks he is letting us know he is in pain, longer episodes of weird stillness, flinching at the touch, barely moving even when one of us comes home, screeching out at times, and staying perfectly still for long periods, nearly impossible to walk him, gait looks normal but he won’t budge and picking him up, even the correct way he cries out. He is voiding and stooling normally so we had to wait before they will really do anything at the ER. I called his ER today (same place he had his previous surgery and receives his psych therapy and meds) and will be bringing him in on Monday, to align his visit when the neurologist is there, I requested an MRI but of course he needs to be seen first, until then we are keeping him calm, keep everyone posted. Thank you so much
I’m sorry this has been an ongoing issue for your Frenchie. I assume he has seen the veterinarian by now. Do you have an update for us?
Hello! So does this mean that 50% of dogs who have had an IVDD episode will never have a recurrence? This is a bit confusing for me because IVDD is a degenerative disease so wouldn’t it likely get worse as a dog gets older? Do IVDD episodes get more frequent as a dog ages?
Also, can a dog who was diagnosed with IVDD at a young age but healed with conservative treatment every time still live a long and healthy life?
Hi Rihanna. Based on my personal experience and research, yes, if you look at the opposite percentage of what I cited in the article, there is a roughly 50% chance a dog won’t have a second IVDD episode in their lifetime. It’s correct that IVDD is a degenerative disease so it gets worse with age. However, some dogs progress more than others. Also, an IVDD primarily injury occurs when a disk ruptures. Just because a disk is getting more brittle, doesn’t mean a guaranteed rupture. For example, my Gretel had a protruding disk that pinched a nerve (not a full blow-up of the disk) and healed with conservative treatment. Since then, based on x-rays, her disks have started to calcify (like forming bone “scar tissue) but have not ruptured again up to this point. She walks stiff because of the calcified disks but it rarely interferes with her activity (only once or twice in a minor way). So that kind of answers your second question too. While each dog is different, my Gretel was diagnosed with IVDD around 6, did not require surgery, and has gone on to live a normal life. In fact, at 11, she can still hike 10 miles! I hope that helps clear things up.
My loving pup Callie is now having her second back surgery but not on the same disk. I would love to join the dachshund group, to get some more ideas on how to keep her safe. I’m not sure what more we can do but it doesn’t hurt to be informed.
He had her first at 4 years old and almost 2 years later she is back in.
Hi Kim. I’m sorry to hear Callie is experiencing an IVVD related disk issue again. How sad and frustrating. My Dachshund group is a general one. Members are interested in all topics related to keeping your Dachshund healthy. You can join that here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/159272951179453. You will want to joint this group too. The group is specifically focused on IVDD support: https://www.facebook.com/groups/565689017647245. Unfortunately, IVDD is a genetic disease that ages the spine prematurely and causes it to become brittle. Disk ruptures can’t wholly be prevented by something you do. If a Dachshund is known to have IVDD though, it’s best to minimize any jumping by using ramps around your house (preferrable to stairs but even they are better). Also, make sure Callie stays fit and lean so spine supporting muscles stay strong and there isn’t an excess burden on the spine. I have written many resource articles about IVDD. You can view my article directory here: https://youdidwhatwithyourweiner.com/inervertebral-disk-disease-ivdd-resources/. Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.