Intervetebral Disk Disease
What is IVDD?
Inter-vertebral Disk Disease develops when a herniated disk places pressure anywhere along the spinal cord. It can be acute (happen suddenly) or chronic (develop slowly over time). The disk content changes from a pliable gel to a stiff, rigid mineral that can burst into the spinal canal or steadily compress the spinal cord. This condition is considered rare in cats.
How does my cat get IVDD?
The exact cause of disc degeneration is unknown, especially in cats. Certain canine breeds are more prone to inheriting this condition. Extremely active and obese cats are more at risk for developing IVDD due to the constant pressure on their vertebra. Trauma to the spinal cord (such as hard landing from a fall or being struck by a car) can also cause IVDD.
How do I know if my cat has IVDD?
The signs of IVDD in your cat depend on the severity of the damage to the spinal cord. Your cat may show signs of pain when being picked up, be reluctant to jump up on the bed or climb stairs, carry his tail low, stop using the litter box, limp or demonstrate weakness or paralysis in the limbs. The sooner treatment is initiated the better the prognosis. Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination and a specific neurological assessment to determine the location of the disk disease and which of the legs are affected. Radiographs will be used to closely examine the vertebrae. Additional special tests including a myelgram (injecting dye into the spinal canal), CAT scan, or MRI may be needed as well as a visit to a board-certified surgeon.
What can I do about IVDD?
Treatment may be either medical or surgical or both. Medical treatment is focused on controlling the inflammation and the pain through the administration of anti-inflammatory drugs and possibly muscle relaxants to relieve muscle spasms. Cage rest is mandatory for the best possible result. Physical therapy may be warranted. Surgery is reserved for severe cases where there is weakness or paralysis and for when the affected cat is not responding to the medications. Some cats may not be able to urinate on their own and your veterinarian can instruct you on how to express the bladder safely. There is a high recurrence rate with IVDD so it is imperative to ensure your cat is kept at a healthy weight, rests and avoids undo pressure on his back.
Is there anything I can do to prevent my cat from getting IVDD?
Keeping your cat on a diet to maintain a healthy weight and not letting your cat outside unsupervised (to avoid getting injured by cars or falls) can reduce the chances of your cat getting IVDD.
Are there certain breeds that get IVDD more often?
IVDD can affect any cat of any breed or mixed breed, but the chronic version tends to be evident in cats 10 years or older.