Degenerative Myelopathy and IVDD – What Is the Difference

Both degenerative myelopathy and IVDD affect a dog’s movement, although the two conditions are highly unlike.


IVDD in Canines

A genetic spine condition known as intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) causes a dog’s spinal disc to dry out, become calcified, and rupture. Breeds of dogs with long bodies and short legs are more prone to IVDD. The disease affects 1 in 4 dachshunds, making the condition common there.

It might hurt if a canine’s spinal disc herniates. Some IVDD-affected dogs would scream in pain and become instantly unable to use their hind legs. Other dogs will display pain by hunching their backs, trembling, and even becoming aggressive when touched.


Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)

DM affects a dog’s spinal cord and is a gradual, inherited condition. The circumstance is similar to ALS in individuals. Canines with DM will experience paralysis and limb weakness. Even if DM advances at various rates in each case, the mobility loss will take place over the course of a few months to a year. Exercise has been shown to slow the progression of DM, and keeping a dog with Degenerative Myelopathy active requires a wheelchair.

Differences between Degenerative Myelopathy and IVDD

Similarities between DM and IVDD

  • Both IVDD and DM are genetic conditions, therefore if breeders aren’t careful, each condition could be inherited and passed on to subsequent generations.
  • Canines with Degenerative Myelopathy and IVDD may experience decreased mobility and weak leg muscles.
  • Both conditions can benefit from physical therapy for dogs.
  • For canines with IVDD or DM, a canine wheelchair is frequently advised.


The Effects of DM and IVDD on a Dog’s Movement

Even while both IVDD and DM frequently experience mobility loss, the 2 conditions are fundamentally distinct from one another. Let’s examine the differences between Intervertebral Disc Disease and Degenerative Myelopathy and how they affect a dog’s ability to walk.

With IVDD and DM, rear leg function loss is common, but the experience can vary greatly. The majority of cases of intervertebral disc disease start off with a sharp pain in the back legs and an immediate loss of movement. Leg function can return as the disc rupture heals and the dog starts to recover. Depending on the severity and treatment of the rupture, IVDD-related paralysis may be permanent.

A condition known as degenerative myelopathy affects movement over time. Canines will initially display signs of losing strength in their back legs and dragging their paws. As the condition worsens, dogs with DM will experience a loss of movement. The legs of the dog will continue to deteriorate with each stage of degenerative myelopathy until they are completely paralyzed.


Incontinence in Dogs with Degenerative Myelopathy or IVDD

Numerous canine mobility issues, including IVDD and DM, can result in poor bladder control and fecal incontinence. When incontinence points begin is the main difference between the 2 circumstances.

When a dog first becomes paralyzed, IVDD incontinence occurs immediately. While not all dogs with IVDD will likely be incontinent, some dogs may not be able to pee and poop on their own. As a result, to help the dog urinate throughout the day, their carer had to physically specify the dog’s bladder numerous times. To prevent accidents and keep them dry within the home, male wraps and dog diapers can be used.

Degenerative myelopathy eventually progresses into incontinence sites. In end-stage DM, which may start a few years after the initial assessment, the majority of DM dogs will lose control of their urine and intestines.


Does either issue have a solution?

The treatment options and outcome are two of the many significant differences between IVDD and Degenerative Myelopathy.


IVDD: Solutions

The area of the herniation in the canine backbone and the severity of the rupture will determine the IVDD treatment. The most common treatment for IVDD in dogs is crate relaxing. When a dog is crated, it is kept calm and still, giving its backbone the time it needs to repair. The most severe IVDD situations might probably also be treated surgically. The excess spinal disc material is removed during IVDD surgery, relieving back pain and reestablishing normal blood flow. Alternative treatments for IVDD include:

  • organized exercise during physical therapy
  • laser therapy
  • Hydrotherapy


Degenerative Myelopathy: Solutions

Degenerative myelopathy has no known cure, however there are several ways to improve a DM dog’s quality of life. All dogs with degenerative myelopathy develop paralysis. The paralysis can advance to the point where it affects a dog’s ability to breathe and moves up the backbone to affect the front legs.

One of the best things you can do to improve your dog’s quality of life is to give him or her regular, daily exercise. Although dogs with degenerative myelopathy are not in pain, it is important to be aware that as the condition progresses, your dog’s mobility will diminish, they will become paralyzed, and both their front and back leg strength may be affected. Additionally, each DM dog would need a wheelchair to be active.



Mobility issues do not necessarily indicate the end of life. Just because a dog can no longer walk without the use of a wheelchair does not mean they are depressed. Discuss treatment options with your veterinarian whether your dog has DM or IVDD. Then, conduct research and collaborate to develop a strategy to provide your dog a happy and active life.

Souvik Ghosh
Souvik Ghosh
Hi there! I'm a pet enthusiast and passionate content writer. When I'm not typing away at my laptop, you'll probably find me cuddled up with my furry friends, or scouring the web for the latest pet tips and tricks. I believe that our pets are true extensions of our families and deserve to be given all of the love and attention that we can muster up.

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