Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

The canine vertebral column consists of five regions, starting from the head, they are; cervical (neck), thoracic (ribs), lumbar, sacrum (pelvis) and coccygeal (tail). The cervical spine supports your dog’s neck and shoulders. The thoracic spine supports the chest and abdominal region and the lumbar spine supports your dog’s lower back and hindquarters.

The functions of the vertebral column are to protect the spinal cord, provide attachment for muscles and ligaments for movement whilst also providing attachment for the ribs. Most of the vertebrae have a intervertebral disc to separate them from the next, to allow movement and shock absorbtion. These discs are much like a humans, it that they can degenerate and may also herniate, or 'slip'. An injured disc is what causes IVDD - The inflammation around the injury causes compression of the nerves as they exit the spinal cord (sometimes the spinal cord itself). The symptoms your dog has relates to the area injured i.e. if it happens in the lumbar spine, the rear leg/s may be affected, if in the neck, the foreleg/s may be affected.

If you suspect your dog may have this condition, you should visit your Vet ASAP. Urinary or fecal incontinence, severe lameness or obvious pain or distress in your dog is not a normal behavior.

Clumber Spaniel Health are currently looking into IVDD in the Clumber Spaniel. If you have been unfortuate enough to have a Clumber with this condition, please consider filling in our survey so that we can learn more about the condition. Our initial survey results are available here.

Our current survey may be accessed here.

The most common causes of IVDD are conformation and age, Over time, the discs in your dogs back lose their flexibility, making them more susceptible to injury. Severe injury is another common cause of intervertebral disc disease. By conformation, it is the shape of your dog. A Clumber Spaniel has relatively short legs and a long back. This is described as a chondrodysplatic breed, which is the type of breed that is more commonly affected by IVDD.

Recently, a mutation was discovered that not only predicted the chondrodystrophic body shape, but increases the risk of Type I intervertebral disc disease (IVDD or "slipped disc."). A dog with one or two copies of this mutation has an increased risk of developing IVDD compared to a dog with zero copies. Its effect on body shape is slightly different--a dog with one copy of the retrogene is likely to have longer legs than a dog with two copies, but shorter legs than a dog with zero copies. EMBARK now include testing for this gene within their DNA profiling.

There are 2 types of IVDD:

Hansen type I - chondroid degeneration with extrusion of nucleus material through a ruptured dorsal annulus fibrosus and the dorsal longitudinal ligament into the vertebral canal. This is the acute (sudden) onset type, as described above.

Hansen type II degeneration - fibroid degeneration with bulging or protrusion of the partially ruptured and thickened annulus fibrosus. This is a condition that has a more chronic (slower) onset. With ageing the discs become hardened and fibrous over a long period of time and eventually break down, bulge out, and compress the spinal cord.

Symptoms of IVDD include:

  • Unwillingness to jump
  • Pain and weakness in rear legs (lameness)
  • Crying out in pain
  • Anxious behavior
  • Muscle spasms over back or neck
  • Hunched back or neck with tense muscles
  • Reduced appetite and activity level
  • Loss of bladder and/or bowel control (urinary and fecal incontinence, respectively)

Clumber Spaniel Back Disease (IVDD) Survey

The Clumber Spaniel Club are supporting a survey by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) into IVDD. Please consider participating in this survey if you have, or have had, a Clumber Spaniel – with or without the condition. You will need to be aware of your dogs weight in kg and have a tape measure available to report your dogs measurements before you start the survey.


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