Can a slipped disc in a dog heal itself?

Answered by Frank Schwing

A slipped disc, also known as intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), is a common condition in dogs that can cause pain and neurological deficits. When a disc slips or herniates, it can compress the spinal cord or nerves, leading to symptoms such as hind end weakness, difficulty walking, and even paralysis.

Now, to address the question of whether a slipped disc in a dog can heal itself, the answer is not a simple yes or no. It depends on the severity of the disc herniation, the location of the affected disc, and the individual dog’s ability to heal.

In mild cases, where there is minimal compression or no neurological deficits, conservative management may be sufficient. This typically involves strict rest, pain medication, anti-inflammatory drugs, and muscle relaxants. The goal is to give the disc time to heal on its own, as the body’s natural processes can sometimes resolve the issue over time.

However, more severe cases often require surgical intervention. Surgery aims to relieve the compression on the spinal cord or nerves and stabilize the affected area. The decision to pursue surgery depends on various factors, including the dog’s overall health, the severity of the symptoms, and the prognosis for recovery.

Assuming the dog undergoes surgery or receives appropriate conservative management, the prognosis for recovery is generally favorable. Dogs can regain function in their hind limbs and lead a normal life. Rehabilitation, such as physical therapy and controlled exercise, can play a crucial role in the recovery process.

It’s important to note that every dog is different, and the outcome can vary. Some dogs may experience a complete recovery, while others may have residual weakness or deficits. Additionally, about a third of dogs with a history of IVDD may suffer a relapse at some point in their lives. This highlights the importance of ongoing monitoring and management to prevent future episodes.

Long-term side effects can also occur in dogs with a history of a slipped disc. Hind end weakness is one such side effect that may persist even after recovery. This weakness can range from mild to severe and may require special accommodations or modifications to the dog’s environment to ensure their comfort and safety.

While a slipped disc in a dog can potentially heal itself with conservative management, the severity of the condition and the individual dog’s response to treatment play significant roles in the outcome. Surgery, when necessary, can greatly improve the chances of a successful recovery. However, it’s essential to be aware that long-term side effects, such as hind end weakness, can persist, and relapses are possible, requiring ongoing care and monitoring.