IVDD Recovery Treatment – Things You Can Do at Home
When Gretel injured her back, and was diagnosed with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD), I was determined that this would just be a blip in our journey together.
I see people every day that overcame physical limitations and continue to be active in the outdoors. Although mild by comparison to some issues, I’ve deal with chronic injuries myself so I know it’s possible.
My goal with Gretel was to 100% follow the recovery plan given to us by her vet and rehab specialist and then do some ongoing things at home to help keep her active and injury free.
UPDATED: July 15, 2018
Initial Treatment for IVDD
Gretel’s IVDD was in stage 2 so she didn’t require surgery. Instead we went with conservative treatment.
She spent some time on strict crate rest – laying still in her crate unless I was carrying her out to go potty or we were laying with her on the couch (and holding her tight so she couldn’t jump off).
During that first two weeks, Gretel got a few cold laser treatments at the vet.
She also got daily treatment at home with the Assisi Loop (Assisi Animal Health was kind enough to send us one when they heard that the “famous athlete” Gretel was injured).
The Assisi Loop® (affiliate link) is a FDA-cleared Non-Pharmaceutical Anti-Inflammatory Device (NPAID®).
It works of a principle similar to acupuncture.
The Assisi Loop uses a targeted electromagnetic field.
Pulsing that electromagnetic field near a conductor (such as muscle, tendons, or skin) will induce current flow in the conductor.
This current flow in the tissue creates a reaction that reduces inflammation and pain and promotes healing.
The Assisi Loop can markedly increase blood flow and tissue oxygenation, which improves the overall tissue health and reduces pain.
There is clinical evidence that the Assisi Loop works.
I know it’s definitely doing something to Gretel’s electromagnetic field because she gets sleepy like she does when she’s getting acupuncture treatment.
The Assisi Animal Health website says, “We often hear reports from pet owners that their animal relaxes as soon as they start their treatments with the Loop” and I definitely see that with Gretel.
If what they say happens on the outside is what I see then I trust that what they say happens on the inside, where I can’t see, is too.
Lil’ Bub, the famous internet cat crippled by a bone disease, was able to walk again and stop taking pain medication when her owner started using the Assisi Loop on her.
BUB’s dude, Mike Bridavsky, said,
“I’m still in shock a little at how much [the Loop] has helped.
[She was unable to walk and] Yesterday she ran and jumped, picking up her toy twice.
When she was a wee wee kitten, before we even knew that things would be really messed up, she was running around like a rabbit, like a bunny hop. The back two legs working at the same time, and the front two at the same time.
She did that this morning. It’s been a year and a half since that’s happened. She was 4 months old the last time she did that.
I saw [her recovery] this morning which really blew my mind.”
NOTE: Eventually I bought a pet-specific cold laser for home use and have been using that instead.
After the Second Week of Recovery
After the first two weeks of extreme movement restriction, our rehab vet recommended that we started some things for active recovery.
Passive Range of Motion (PROM) exercises
This is where I moved her limbs and joints with no assistance, or muscle contraction on her part, at each of the joints.
It’s something that should be done when the pet is relaxed and comfortable.
They key is to be gentle using a smooth, slow, and steady movement while supporting the area below and above the joint.
I only did these PROM exercises for her hind legs since those were the ones affected by her back injury and were also the ones most likely to stiffen up while on crate rest.
Here is a demonstration:
Gretel wasn’t into calmly laying on the floor so I could do the PROM exercises but I snuk them when I could.
Opportune times were when she was laying on her back for belly rubs, laying in the sunshine out in the yard, or when she was laying on my chest on the couch.
I wish I could have done this more but I think even a little bit helped.
Keeping Gretel’s muscles long and flexible was important. Laying down for a long time, especially after injury, can cause muscles to tighten and shorten.
Stretches should be done on warmed up muscles and held for 20-30 seconds each.
When I first started stretching her, she was still on crate rest.
It wasn’t possible to exercise her to warm up her muscles first so I just did it gently and for a couple of seconds each. Now I do it after her walks.
Massage can stimulate and loosen the muscles, increase circulation, and help dogs rehabilitate after surgeries and other traumas.
I wasn’t very technical about the massage. I’ve taken an intro to massage class for people before so I just did what made sense to me.
I used two fingers to run down each side of her spine, stopping at every vertebrae to make a little scratchy/circular motion. I used my thumb and first two fingers to massage the meaty part of her back thighs.
I did the stretching and massage together.
I did them when she was laying on her back for belly rubs or snuggling with me on the couch (on her back). She seemed to like this so it wasn’t that hard to get her to do.
When she lays on her back, she naturally extends her legs. I just gently pushed and pulled them a little straighter. I also used my fingers to gently massage her butt and thigh muscle while she was in that position.
After two weeks, she was reassessed by the rehab vet. Her condition was mild (Stage II) so we were able to progress to the active recovery stage pretty quickly.
Although she was still to be on crate rest when she wasn’t doing her limited exercises in a controlled environment, she was given the go-ahead to start active rehab exercises.
She began walking on an underwater treadmill weekly at the vet’s office.
We started these things at home:
It was important to get her moving so her muscles wouldn’t atrophy any further and to start building her strength and stamina again.
The key to making this a “rehab exercise” was to keep her walking at a steady pace the whole time – no frequent stopping or bursts of running.
We started with 5-minute walks two to four times a day.
As time went on, and as long as she was not showing any soreness or limping after, we were able to increase the duration of the walks.
We increased our daily walks to 10-minutes each, then 15-minutes, and then I decreased the number of walks while increasing the length.
These can be done at home and were designed to increase her leg and core strength, balance her muscles, and teach her to be aware of her feet and body.
I chose to take Gretel to a canine gym once a week for a while until I learned to communicate with her better and she started to learn what I was asking her to do.
Exercises included all 4 unstable, three-legged stand, paws us, rear paw target, paws up pivot, walk backwards, and cavaletti rails.
See my other article for a description of each of the rehab exercises and to see some more demonstrations.
I started giving her daily supplements to improve overall health, as well as strengthen her muscles, joints, and connective tissues. (see my list of what I give her)
Lifestyle “modifications” to reduce injury
These modifications are both structural and behavioral.
Behavioral modifications are that we discourage her from jumping on us when she is excited, we carry her up and down the steps to the yard (yes, EVERY time she has to go potty), and control her ability to jump on and off the furniture.
We’ve really only made one “structural” modification so far and that is to get a ramp for the couch and physically block off any way on or off except for that.
I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to modify the porch stairs out the front and back door to include a ramp because we rent.
However, we would like to eventually move to a house with no stairs or figure something out that we can do here.
My long-term plan is to:
- Make sure I’m walking Gretel around the neighborhood at least 5 days a week for 30 – 60 minutes at a time
- Do her home rehab exercises 2 – 3 times a week
- Hike, snowshoe or paddleboard 2 – 5 times a month
- Use the cold laser for dogs on her after activities that are more strenuous than a 60 minute walk (or as needed for flare-ups).
I’ll be doing these things to help keep her strong and pain free for the rest of her life since her condition is chronic.
Do you have a dog with IVDD? Are there other things you do at home besides what I’ve listed? Please leave a comment below if so.
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.
Have you looked at getting (or do you already have) a Back on Track jacket and/or crate pad for her? It is a ceramic infused fabric that is great for keeping muscles warm and preventing cramping, helping arthritis, etc. I have one that Koira wears for flyball, and I really do think it helps keep her from getting stiff.
No. I think I have heard of those before but totally forgot. I’ll have to check them out. Not only would something like that be good for Gretel but it might feel good on Chester’s old man bones 🙂
Really nice column, Jessica! Thank you.
I have an 8 year old daschund, Gretchen, who injured her back in April of this year. We had a few set backs by myself thinking she was ok, but a couple excited jumping up at me and we were back at square one. I came across your blog about Gretel’s crate rest and made a total move to crate rest for about 6 weeks. I pick her up after she gets out of the crate, only walked enough for bathroom. Even fed her in the crate. She is doing wonderful after total rest. We built a ramp for the back deck stairs and she can use that herself now. I also bought a six sided “playpen ” that I have used to baracade my sectional. I’m glad to see you have incorporated a similar application. I move one side to sit on it and pick her up to sit with me. It’s a bit peculiar looking but the important issue is she cannot jump on or off the couch. Keep up the great work, we will keep reading!
Tammy and Gretchen
Not surprised to see that you are sticking with your treatment plan. The loop sounds really cool, a lot like the electric shock treatment they give in PT but I’m sure that’s not what it’s called! Keep up the good work, but I know you will!
Ha, ha. Yeah… no… “here is an electric shock ring for your dog. It helps. Really.” <– probably wouldn't go over well 🙂 I think it is helping though. I decided to keep it by the bed so I can treat Gretel before we go to sleep and on the mornings we get to lay around a bit.
Thanks for your excellent post! I am caring for a standard poodle with IVDD at C5, so he is currently down on all 4. The one thing we are doing in our home care that you didn’t mention is neuromuscular electrical stimulation using a TENS unit — the vet shaved little patches to help me with electrode placement for triceps/biceps and hamstring/quad stimulation (the unit alternates so we get a bit of flexion/extension of the limb I’m working on) — it seems to me that this is helping to strengthen his muscles that have atrophied.
Hadn’t heard of the Assisi loop — off to check it out.
Hi Susan. Glad to hear that is helping. My vet never talked to me about that but it wouldn’t have been necessary for Gretel since her episode was mild. Thanks for mentioning it here though so others know.
My baby (min pin/daschund) was diagnosed today with ivdd stage 2, he is winning at me from his crate right now ?. Reading this has given me such a sense of relief and hope! Thank you!!
I’m sorry to hear that Robyn. My article on surviving crate rest might help you too: https://youdidwhatwithyourweiner.com/dog-crate-rest-tips/
Gretel’s IVDD back issue was at stage 2 also. She seemed to start feeling better right away but I knew she could continue to have problems with the same disk if we didn’t do a full round of crate rest. The vet said we only needed to do 6 weeks but we did 8 for good measure. She’s back out doing big hikes again so don’t lose hope 🙂
We lost our 1st frenchie last year (while on our honeymoon) to IVDD. He was only 4.5 years old.
We got another frenchie a little while later. He just turned 1 in July. A week ago today he had a fun, yet extremely strong play date with his English bully fried. The next day he was lethargic. We thought it was just a typical overtired recovery. The next day he was the same. We got pain meds from the vet. Nothing. We went back and got muscle relaxers. Immediately he was better! He’s been doing good for a few days now.
However, today we left the house for a few hours. Came back and he came out of his crate. I very lightly touched his lower back by his tail and he yelped! It brought back memories of our first frenchie.
We called our vet and she said keep him on strict rest as described in this post: no jumping and no stairs. We were trying to be good with that before but there were a few times he jumped off the couch or went down the stairs when we were looking.
Hoping it’s not IVDD again. Just so weird that he was appearing to do great, and now the decline. On the positive, he’s eating, drinking, and regulating his bowels and urine.
Anyone else have a similar experience?
I’m sorry to hear that John. I’m sure it worries you. Unfortunately, IVDD is pretty common in Frenchies too.
Progress, and recovery, with IVDD related injuries are not always linear. Medication can mask the symptoms and make them feel temporarily better even though the underlying issue is still there. This definitely sounds like IVDD to me but I’m not a vet. I would stick with your vet’s recommendation and keep him on crate rest for a while. It’s definitely positive that he’s eating and going potty ok. Hopefully you caught it early and he’ll recover fine with crate rest we did 8 weeks for Gretel who also only had mild symptoms). Good luck to you guys.
What did you do for pain management?
During her initial injury or for maintanace after? I guess I’ll answer both. During her crate rest, we did the standard protocol of steroids and pain medication. I think the steroid period was only a week and we only had to give the pain medication daily for 3 or so weeks, then just as needed. On an ongoing basis, I don’t give Gretel anything on a daily basis. I do give her general mobility supplements most days, like a joint supplement and fish oil, but I only give pain medication when needed. If she seems a little uncomfortable and is experiencing more stiffness in her back leg (her sign her back is bothering her), I give her CBD to help make her more comfortable. I also give her a series of treatments with the cold laser I bought for home use (My Pet Laser). I also put her back on a restricted movement schedule. It’s not full crate rest but I carry her up and down the stairs going outside and don’t take her for any hikes or walks. If she is having a true flare-up, I give her the pain medication (Gabapentin) I keep on hand until she seems back to normal. My vet knows that I do this. I either use leftover medication I was given prior for something else or ask the vet for a refill so I can have some on hand just in case. I hope that helps.
My Doxie had a IVDD 2 times. One in lower back and one on neck. She recovered both times without surgery.
She was taking meds and complete crate rest. I had to use both hands to lift her so her back wouldn’t bow. She was confined for 9 weeks and didn’t like it one bit! Especially when she started to feel better.
Don’t know why she had the problem with her neck , so we took her for an MRI. It showed an indentation on the spinal cord where hardened disk fluid was.They wanted to do surgery, but I decided to try Meds and crate confinement again before trying surgery. I was once again successful. I just wanted to make her better, unfortunately she could have other episodes in the future.
I’m glad that she was able to recover without surgery.
My dog is in stage 1 where it was only a stiff sore back and went away on its own with a week of rest. Should I be resting her for the full 6 weeks? And what is considered a flare up? Does that count as another required full 6 weeks of rest? Tia
Hi Aspen. I’m not a veterinarian but mine told me that they can’t detect IVDD at stage 1. She explained to me that stage 1 is when there is “trouble developing” but there is no outward indication. She said the earliest they can detect a clear problem is stage 2. I’m not telling you this to say you or your veterinarian is wrong but I’j just saying it could be late stage 1 or stage 2… and at stage 2 my dog needed the 6 weeks crate rest to fully recover. Frankly, she acted better after a week but I know from science and research about IVDD recovery, that she was not fully healed internally. Again, you and your veterinarian know your dog. I’m must sharing my experience.
As far as a flare up, my Dachshund hasn’t experienced one but many of my friend’s dogs have. For minor issues like walking a little stiff, they just try to limit their activity for a couple weeks until the symptoms go away. If their dog is acting the same as they were with the initial injury, they sometimes take them to the vet to determine whether the issue is coming from the same disk or a different one. Many have done another round of 6-week crate rest just to be sure.
I have a 6 y/o long haired mini daxi with grade 1/2 IVDD. She has been on pain relief and confinement for a week so far and has seemingly improved a lot, I think her case was quite mild in that she is still walking and there is no visible change in gait at all. I was wondering if you pushed for an MRI for Gretel and if you thought it would be worthwhile? Also, how often did you see your vet during her recovery?
Super helpful blog, thank you!
I did not do an MRI for Gretel. I asked the vet about it and they said there was no point for her. She was also stage 2 so surgery was not recommended and the treatment would be the same (strict crate rest for 6-8 weeks) regardless of which disk was having the issue. The vet said that MRIs are really only necessary so the vet knows which disk to operate on. I will add though, because you said she is walking normal, that she should not be at this stage. It takes a minimum of 5 weeks for scar tissue to form and “heal” the disk and she must be immobile for this to happen. Walking around doesn’t allow for the spine to stay immobile and it’s very risky because she could twist wrong and hurt herself even further. If you want more advice in that area besides just from me, check out the website Dodgerslist.com. Here are my tips for getting through the crate rest period: https://youdidwhatwithyourweiner.com/dog-crate-rest-tips/
Hi Jessica, i have a 6 y/o lab mix who was diagnosed with type III IVDD. One night we were fetching his ball and all of a sudden, he started yelling and we saw both his hind legs were paralyzed. We rushed him to the vet (by that point he could now put weight on his right leg, not on te left) so the specialist said he doesn’t need surgery as of now. Problem is, he has always been a VERY active dog. He has never been in a crate or a pen in his whole life, he could be anywhere in the house at all times so now we’re terrified of how he’s gonna do inside a pen. For the past 3 days, my sister and I have literally been next to him 24/7 since he’s not in a crate, we’ve been sleeping and living in our living room making sure he doesn’t get up and start walking as he pleases. His left hind leg is still weak and he knuckles the left toes when he walks. The evenings are the hardest because he gets this rush of energy and gets up but won’t sit back down. All we can do is give him back support with a sling. The vet told us we could take him out to pee/poop 3 times/day (5 minutes each time) but when we take him out, he literally sniffs the air and just looks around for 5 minutes! so by the time he finally decides to pee/poop, it’s been more like 15-20 minutes (probably 4 min of actual walking, the rest he’s just standing). There’s a medium size step to go out to the yard but he’s 55 lbs so we can’t carry him out, my sister carries him by the harness while I carry his back by supporting his hips with a sling. Do you think we’re harming his back by doing this? We started giving him trazodone to calm him down and it seemed to work last night but we’re not sure if we should keep him sedated during the day too. It seems like that may be the only way to keep him calm. We have tried several quiet games but he gets bored so easily, he wants us to fetch his ball. Also, we have heard so many different timeframes as of how long the “strict bed rest” should be. Some say 4 weeks, some say 6 and some say 8. Do you know how long of a recovery time if he didn’t have surgery? We’re terrified to not be doing anything right and doing something to make things worse. We’re also so sad to think that we may never be able to fetch his ball again even after recovery since it’s his favorite game. We’re just so sad and frustrated at the whole situation, we don’t even know how to start caring for him properly ?
I’m sorry, we’re just desperate and days seem to be going by slower and slower each time.
Hi Diane. I understand your predicament. First, the length of crate rest depends on your individual dog. All injuries and different and all dogs heal differently. The minimum a dog needs is 5 weeks for scar tissue to form over the problem disk. I did 10 weeks for my girl. After our initial vet visit, we saw a rehab vet throughout the process. She helped us determine whether Gretel needed more than 5 weeks or not. She also had us start weekly hydrotherapy sessions (walking underwater on a treadmill) and cold laser treatments. As far as not putting him in a crate, what you are doing mostly sounds ok, albeit hard for you to attend to daily activities because it’s so dependent on you. The one thing I would caution against is the stair. At least put a ramp over it so that he is merely walking up a short steep section instead of stepping up onto something. Check out the website Dodgerslist.com if you haven’t already. It is written for Dachshunds but has a lot of solid advice about what IVDD is and how to deal with it.
Your information was so helpful. Have a 6 yr long hair doxie just diagnoised with this. Going to start crating him but have questions. Am unemployed and looking for a job. If I land one during his 4-5 week crating is it safe for him to stay crated 10+ hours a day (for a ft job) until I get home? I can try to fence off the kitchen and keep him there while Im gone but don’t know if he absolutely has to be crated instead? How will he pee/poop during crating- he was trained to ring a bell on the back of the outside door when he has to relieve himself. Help!
Hi Fran. I’m sorry you and your pup are going through this. When a dog is on strict crate rest for IVDD, they should spend all of their time in the crate (unless your veterinarian wants you to do rehab exercises) so the disk can heal, they don’t move around, or accidentally re-injure themselves. He should be carried outside to go potty, kept on a leash until he goes, and then carried back in. That goes for both pee and potty breaks. You’ll just have to take him out at regular intervals. If it were me, I would take him out every couple hours when I was home or the approximate frequency with which he usually rings the bell to go out. So, keeping him in the crate that long is not an issue in that regard as he’ll be in there that long anyway. However, 10+ hours in a crate without a break is a very long time for any dog. I admit that there have been times I’ve left my Dachshunds that long and they were fine (they were able to hold it that long) but it’s not something I’m comfortable doing now unless there is no other option (but getting a job might be a “no other option” situation in this case). Personally, I would not fence him into the kitchen as it will not provide the level of immobility he needs for recovery.
My 5yr old dachshund/beagle girl, Peanut, was just diagnosed with IVDD. I guess stage 2 as she can still walk.
Biggest issue for us currently is the pain. She’s on Gabapentin for the pain but potty breaks are a bit painful it seems.
We had to restart cage rest after one week of mostly being ok as she suddenly experienced more pain. No idea what triggered that but it happened. Still no neurological issues (she was evaluated by the emergency vet and a neurologist when I took her in for the increase in pain) so we’re happy about that at least.
Did your dog experienced bouts of pain after lifting her up and potty breaks? If yes how long did it take to get better? We see slow improvement, meaning that the pain goes away quicker every day but it’s still hard to see her suffer like this and of course there is the fear that it will get worse but we try to stay positive. But really, i just don’t want to see her in pain anymore.
Also at what point did you start with massages? Our girl can walk but she is a bit stiff from laying in her crate all day.
The only experience with doggy massage and recovery I have comes from our old dachsi boy, Bambam, who had to go through back surgery due to a sudden onset of paralysis in the hind legs a few years ago. There we could start more or less immediately with PT and massage. As we have the chance to go through the conservative treatment route for my girl I’m a bit unsure how and when to start. Unfortunately, the emergency vet wasn’t really that great at communicating what we could or could not do during the cage rest. Really only minimal instructions (basically, just telling us to do cage rest and that’s it) which is a bit frustrating I will call our regular vet to get maybe some more instructions but maybe you have some good suggestions?
This is the first time we have to do strict cage rest for one of our dogs and your page has been incredibly helpful. Thank you for writing this down.
Hi Bianca. I think I’ understand your questions. My Dachshund Gretel hurt her back and was prescribed crate rest. In our case, she immediately seemed to be getting better, although the vet did caution us that she needed to complete a minium of 5 weeks in order for the disk rupture to heal. So, in our case, no, there was no pain with lifting her up and for potty breaks. Not that we could detect anyway. In my experience through emails and comments I get from blog followers, and from members of our Dahchsund club, in general, the pain either starts to get better right away or doesn’t. It’s rare that a dog starts to get better and then gets worse again. Not from the initial injury anyway. In other words, a dog either desn’t get better, or gets worse immediately, but if a dog starts to get better day by day, they tend to continue that trend. There is always a chance another disk could rupture though so it’s good to watch and go to the vet if it gets suddenly worse.
Our rehab vet is up on the latest research and did not belive keeping a dog immobile for the entire 5-8 weeks (we did 10 weeks) is good because the muscles can atrophy from not being used. I beleive that vet gave us the ok to start hydrotherapy (underwater tredmill) after about 10 days. That’s also when we started gentle stretching, cold laser treatments, and accupuncture. Not too long after that, I was allowed to start walking her in the back yard (a controlled enviroment where she is unlikely to get reinjured) on leash for 5 minutes a day.
I hope that helps.