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Intevertebral Disk Disease in Dogs and Cats

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) in Dogs and Cats

Herbal treatments to help address symptoms of Intervertebral Disc Disease, calcification and degenerative disc diseases in dogs and cats. 

The canine and feline musculoskeletal system has many moving and related components including bones, blood vessels, joints, ligaments, muscles, nerves, tendons, and support organs that include the liver, kidneys, and adrenal glands. Genetics, age, injuries and wear and tear can undermine your pet’s joints and connective tissue, causing stiff and aching joints, degenerative disease and trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body.

Intervertebral disc disease is a condition where the discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column either bulge or burst into the spinal cord space. These discs, which typically provide cushion between tissues and the spinal column, instead press on the nerves running through the spinal cord, causing pain, nerve damage, and even paralysis. Some breeds appear to be more predisposed including Dachshunds, Beagles, Basset Hounds, and Shih Tzus and large breed cats such as Maine Coone cats.

Intervertebral discs basically function as the shock absorbers of the spine, and are comprised of a gelatinous substance surrounded by a thick outer layer. There are two types of disc herniation: Type I and Type II. Type I is considered more severe and Type II generally has less severe signs and symptoms.

Symptoms of Intervertebral disc disease include:

Unwilling to jump

Pain in rear legs

Weakness/lameness in rear legs

Crying/yelping in pain

Anxious behavior

Muscle spasms over back or neck

Hunched back or neck with tense muscles

Reduced appetite

Reduced activity

Loss of bladder

Loss of bowel control


In Type I, discs of the neck region develop a hardening (or calcification) of the outer layer, typically affecting smaller breeds, but it can affect all breeds and sizes of dogs and cats. The calcification damages the disc, allowing it to break down faster. An impact caused by jumping and landing can cause one or more disc(s) to burst and the inner material to press on the spinal cord.

In Type II, the discs become hardened and fibrous over a long period of time and eventually break down, bulge out, and compress the spinal cord.

When the nerves of the spinal cord are compressed, the nerve impulses are not able to transmit their signals to the final destination in the limbs, bladder, etc. If the damage is severe enough, paralysis and loss of bladder and bowel control can occur. Depending on the location of the disc that is bulging, signs occur anywhere in the body from the neck to the rear legs.

Alternative treatments such as physical therapy, hydrotherapy and massage may also be beneficial in increasing range of motion and reducing pain associated with IDD and calcification issues related to the spinal cord and back.

Herbal Nutrition - (listed in order of relevance and recommendation by holistic vets - human grade meets/exceeds highest safety criteria for pets)

Herbal and marine extracts have been used nutritionally to help naturally support the musculoskeletal system, to help limit inflammation and inflammation pathways, as a natural pain reliever, to help build the bone density, to help build connective tissue and muscle, to help nutritionally and potentially limit the progression of degenerative conditions such as IVDD and DJD, to help limit bone re-absorption, to help alleviate pain as well as to promote overall health and wellness in dogs and cats.

Joint Ease Super Dog & Cat – (learn more) contains a synergistic blend of plant and marine extract adaptogens that help promote preventative and reparative support to rebuild tissue, joints, bones and muscles; supports balanced immunity and limits whole body inflammatory response while promoting systemic healing and balanced immunity; as a holistic, natural treatment for rheumatism; for arthritis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, rheumatism, Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), Intervertebral Disk Disease (IDD), Degenerative Myelopathy, arthrosis and related inflammation and pain; for muscle pains, strains, injuries and other degenerative joint related diseases; as a pain reliever for swelling and lack of mobility; for overall optimal health and function and as a natural alternative for tumors and cysts. Contains herbs and marine extracts recognized by the World Health Organization as some of the most important ingredients in the natural treatment of all forms of arthritis. 

Joint Support Meal Topper – (learn more) contains natural glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, vitamins, minerals, essential Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids including ETA (Eicosatetraenoic acids), EPA  (Eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and GLA (Gamma-liolenic acid); amino acids, antioxidants, super foods, adaptogens and digestive enzymes, which may nutritionally and synergistically combine to help support joint problems related to degenerative tissue decline and bone loss; may help support the cartilage matrix; may help promote smooth, unrestricted joint movement and flexibility in the skeletal system; may help address sore, aching joints and help limit inflammation related to all symptoms of arthritis; loss of synovial tissue and reduced collage production; may help promote healthy, strong muscles, joints and bones; may stimulate synovial fluid and promote cellular repair; nutritionally content may help promote balanced immune health; safe for all life stages of dogs and cats.

Bionic Body – (learn more) is used holistically for its adaptogenic (read, repair and restore functions) for its immune boosting and anti-inflammatory support; as an antioxidant and for its free radical scavenging (disease preventing) actions; for its nutritive content which may help to nourish the body and strengthen and revitalize bones, eye, teeth, skin and coat; works to stimulate collagen production, a primary building material of bones; may help prevent dental disease; for its plant actions to help strengthen bones, cartilage, joints, muscles, sheath surrounding nerves and muscles, connective tissues & blood vessels & helps to reduce joint inflammation, while activating a cartilage-protective biochemical, potentially helping to preserve healthy cartilage in aging joint; for its anti-allergen natural plant chemicals which may help to fight off allergies and infections; for its prebiotic and probiotic content to help support native gut flora and healthy digestion.

I Feel Good –  (learn more) contains plant based adaptogens, which helps nutritionally tone the animal body, helps boost or balance immunity as needed, including soothing an over-stimulated immune system or boosting an under- performing immune system, helps to reduce all forms of system-wise metabolic and oxidative stress that undermine immunity; helps support water regulation and fluid balance in the body; helps reduce all types of inflammation, provides dermal support and growth of healthy cells and tissues in the body’s defense mechanism, reduces the histamine trigger for contact allergies, seasonal and chronic allergens, pathogens, skin rashes, infections, hot spots, inflammation, swelling, hair loss, itching and geriatria (dull coat, lethargy) and fever; for all types of arthritis, including Degenerative Joint Disease, Osteoarthritis, Osteoporosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and symptoms associated with rheumatism, including pain, strains, injuries, muscle pain, swelling and lack of mobilityreduces all types of inflammation, particularly from the heart to brain; as a gastrotonic to support stomach health; contains prebiotics and probiotics useful in balancing digestive health and function plus much more. Recognized as one of the most important medicinal plants in the world, particularly related to supporting balanced immunity and limiting inflammation and inflammatory conditions. 

Conventional Remedies:

Examination by your veterinarian will include a complete neurologic exam, which will help identify where in the spinal cord the injury is located. X-rays may show abnormalities of the spine. Because the spinal cord does not appear on X-rays, special imaging may be necessary to locate the source of the injury.

A myelogram may be conducted, which involves injecting a special dye into the spine, which surrounds the spinal cord and allows it to appear on X-rays.

A myelogram test requires the animal to be put under anesthesia.

An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography) scan can also be used to locate where the nerves are being pinched, which is necessary for surgical repair

Depending on the severity of the damage to the spinal cord, treatment can range from conservative to surgical. Conservative care usually includes treatment with drugs such as steroids and anti-inflammatories to reduce the swelling of the cord and reduce pain. Please keep in mind that steroids have serious side effects.

The dog or cat may also be kept confined in a crate or cage to prevent further damage from occurring for up to six weeks. After a period of resting, your pet may return to normal activity.

If the damage is severe and the animal is paralyzed or incontinent, emergency surgery may be needed. Surgery involves removing a portion of the bony vertebrae over the spinal cord (laminectomy). Even after surgery, your animal may not recover.

Most of the animals with IVDD have spasms of the back muscles. Treatment for this symptom usually includes heat and massage techniques along with medications. Commonly used medications include diazepam and methocarbamol. Diazepam is a muscle relaxant which is also used to calm an animal and treat convulsions.

Methocarbamol is another muscle relaxant effective in treating muscle spasms caused by IVDD. It acts directly on the nervous system instead of on the muscles themselves.



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