IVDD What is it? How can Acupuncture Help?



I remember down to the black converse shoes I was wearing, every single detail of the day my dachshund started showing signs of IVDD (Intervertebral disc disease). It’s the most traumatizing and horrifying experience watching a pet go through pain. Not knowing or being able to do anything about it.  Romeo (my short haired, dapple miniature dachshund) started having issues going to the washroom.

I noticed him hunching his back gradually, he would be trying to pee right in the middle of our kitchen. I couldn’t even get upset because I knew instantly that something was very wrong. Of course this all happened on a Sunday when our local vet wasn’t open.  

I decided that maybe with his habits of eating things he shouldn’t be I would give it the day and if his conditions worsened or I didn’t see similar symptoms that I had previously seen from his past digressions, then I would call the emergency line and get him to the vet. It wasn’t even 30 minutes after I had made this decision that I noticed he was no longer using his back right leg.  

I got down on the floor with him and tried to get him to stand on his leg. Nothing.  At this point I was on the phone with the vet, having a full on meltdown on my kitchen floor in tears. Holding and rocking him back and forth.  Romeo had lost all function of his back half within the hour. His back began to arch so he was literally dragging his bum around when I would let him down (which wasn’t often).  I felt completely useless to him.  All I could do was hold him and wait until we could get to the vet.  

I cried the entire way to the vet office, which was 30 minutes away. Felt like an eternity. We finally arrived and got some x-rays of his back done.  It was conclusive, one of the disks in his back had started to bulge causing the other vertebra to shift.

At the time I couldn’t fully comprehend what she was telling me.  She said a bunch of things and what I caught from the whole conversation was “steroids” “muscle relaxant” “surgery” “$8500” and “prepare yourself for the worst”.  I left the vet an even bigger mess than I walked in.

Once I was finally able to digest what the vet had told me, it took me another moment to process that information.  Basically Romeo needed for now to be on some steroids to help with pain management, muscle relaxants to try and get his back to the proper alignment.  This treatment would continue for a week in which we would need to reevaluate the situation.

This approach was only taken because we had seen the signs and brought him in quickly. She felt we could address it without any further action, though it would remain a continued problem for the rest of his life. I wasn’t overly happy with the continued thought of having to constantly be prepared that he could at any moment lose the function of his legs again, and experience this pain again.

Our next option was a $8500 surgery that only had a 30% chance of giving him back his mobility. So we could pay this huge sum (in which we couldn’t afford). Still have a dog who loses his quality of life, has to go through months of physical therapy and in the end probably have to purchase a wheelchair for him.  And now how happy is he?  

He wouldn’t be able to keep up like he used to, go down the stairs by himself.  Could you imagine how hard of an adjustment this would be for someone who has no way to tell you how they are feeling?  Not to say this isn’t an option for some people!  It total is, sometimes there is no other option and we do what needs to be done.  I just wasn’t ready to make that choice.  

The next choice she gave us if the steroids didn’t work and we opted not to do the surgery was to have him put down.  This made my jaw drop that it could just so plainly be an option.  Now I know that if he was in pain and I had no other option that in the end I would have to make this decision. But I just wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t ready to let him go.  Que the research.

I am not someone who can just take another’s word for it.  I need multiple sources of information to paint a clear picture. I need to know exactly what to expect from any given situation. If you’re going through this now, know that you are in my thoughts each and every minute because it is scary as HELL! There will never be enough support to get through something like this.  I hope you read through the information below and look for a practiced acupuncturist and chiropractor in your area, you’ll be happy you did!


What is IVDD?

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a condition where the cushioning discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column either bulge or burst (herniate) into the spinal cord space. These discs then press on the nerves running through the spinal cord causing pain, nerve damage, and even paralysis. IVDD can cause a number of symptoms in domestic dogs.

The signs of IVDD can mimic those of acutely ruptured disks such as from trauma or otherwise, but the causes are very different. IVDD occurs more commonly in certain breeds but can occur in any breed or mix of breeds and in dogs of any age or gender. IVDD can lead to permanent nerve damage, making timely recognition and intervention extremely important.


Signs of IVDD to watch for

Observable signs can vary, owners may notice one or multiple symptoms.  They can occur suddenly or gradually.


  • Neck pain and stiffness (reluctance to move the neck and head)
  • Lowered head stance
  • Back pain and stiffness
  • Yelping unexpectedly when touched or moving
  • Abdominal tenderness or tenseness
  • Arched back (hunched posture, called “thoracolumbar kyphosis”)
  • Sensitivity to touch (possible aggression)
  • Sensitivity to movement
  • Impaired, incomplete or inappropriate urination
  • Lameness
  • Dragging one or more legs when walking
  • “Toeing over” or “knuckling over” when walking or standing
  • Weakness
  • Stiffness
  • Stilted gait; tentative gait
  • Reluctance to rise
  • Tremors, trembling, shaking
  • Lack of coordination (“ataxia”)
  • Abnormal reflexes
  • Collapse
  • Paralysis in one or more limbs


Now you may ask how on earth is sticking some needles into the muscle tissue of my dog, and realigning his spinal column going to relieve him of IVDD?

Acupuncture improves the body’s functions and promotes the natural self-healing process by stimulating specific anatomic sites–commonly referred to acupuncture points, or acupoints. The most common method used to stimulate acupoints is the insertion of fine, sterile needles into the skin. Acupuncture is used all around the world, either alone or in conjunction with Western medicine, to treat a wide variety of conditions in every species of animal. Clinical research has been conducted showing positive results in the treatment of both animals and humans, and the use of acupuncture is increasing. Acupuncture will not cure every condition, but it can work very well when it is indicated.

Below are some photo’s of my personal experience with acupuncture.

Check out Association of Veterinary Acupuncturists of Canada on more pet specific acupuncture explanations and FAQ’s here.

I am not going to say this was a fun experience the very first time I took him in.  However our vet was amazing with reassuring us and walking us through the whole process step by step. It is important to find someone you are comfortable with. For those people who have not personally experience acupuncture themselves and are skeptical. The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to research.  There are countless posts out there with people raving of how acupuncture has made a huge improvement on their dog’s life, give them a gander it may ease your mind like it did for me.

We had read so many reviews and post on how amazing acupuncture was for their pets health and I was seriously skeptical. More often than not what we read was people who had gone through with the surgery, and after physical therapy their pets still had no mobility. And ended up going to Chiropractor and Acupuncture sessions anyways. So considering my other options I was willing to give it a try with an open mind.

Romeo was walking within days after having the treatment done. I was so thrilled. Now even though he was up and functioning, we still kept him on bed rest for the next three weeks and to this day I do not allow him to jump from anything high up. We do take him for follow up appointments about every 3-4 months just to keep him at his peak mobility. And this is in relation to what we are doing, how active he has been, or if I feel like he’s been a bit sluggish.  This is a decision you can make with your vet after the first appointment when they have a better idea of your particular situation.

The cost of these session is actually quite affordable for the average income earner compared to the lofty sum of $8500 surgery that was offered. And as far as I have read, a much better success rate than the surgery as well. Where we are in Alberta, Canada we paid $75 for our initial consultation and treatment, and now pay $50 per follow up, and depending if he needs both chiro and acupuncture sometimes less. His last 3 appointments he has not needed to be realigned at all.  This is absolutely amazing to me! And I got to keep my best friend.


I salute you if you have made it this far through my emotional rambling!  Thank you for sticking through and I am happy to address any questions anyone may have regarding acupuncture, chiropractic sessions, IVDD, or just my personal experience.  I will answer the best I can.


To find a registered acupuncturist in your area (Canada) please follow this link to AVA Canada.


xo – Stephanie


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