What You Should Know About Intervertebral Disc Disease
Pomeranians are adorable little balls of fluff named after the Pomerania region in Europe from which they originate. Descended from spitz dogs that were once large enough to pull sleds, they now only typically weigh 5-7 pounds. These playful little dogs make great pets due to their intelligence and energetic personality. Unfortunately, although Poms have long average life spans of about 15 years, they are also at risk for degenerative and musculoskeletal diseases, such as intervertebral disc disease.
Studies have shown, on average, about 15% of Pomeranians and Pomeranian puppies suffer from Intervertebral Disc Disease. Because of their body shape, a more extended spine versus shorter legs leaves them at a higher risk of injury. Injury can happen for various reasons with your Pomeranian, but the main factor is jumping down from high distances (like a tall bed or sofa). Although this may sound like a large number, most cases can be treated, and the affected Pomeranians and Pomeranian puppies can continue to live long and happy lives.
Details of Intervertebral Disc Disease
Intervertebral Disc Disease happens when the soft, gel-like material between spinal discs hardens. Typically, gel-like material serves as a shock absorber, so the bones don’t collide when the spine is impacted. However, when the disc has hardened, it can no longer do its job of absorbing the impact and herniates instead. The herniation of that disc can cause other kinds of trauma, such as pressure on the spinal cord, loss of feeling in the back legs, and seizures.
Another consequence of Intervertebral Disc Disease is something called degenerative myelopathy. This is when the herniated disc causes permanent damage to the nerves in the hind legs and causes the dog to walk in an uncoordinated fashion due to leg weakness. Sometimes this causes the dog to drag his toes on the ground, do a bunny hop, or run and walk with a limp. This typically affects older dogs. In Pomeranians and Pomeranian puppies, it can happen from a slipped disc. Other breeds can suffer from this affliction as well, such as a German Shephard, in which it happens for no discernable reason.
Causes of Intervertebral Disc Disease in Pomeranians
The main predisposition Pomeranians have towards being affected by Intervertebral Disc Disease is their stature. The effect of their shorter legs with a longer and fuller body puts a lot of pressure on their small joints, compounded by their active lifestyle. Pomeranians are dogs that love to run and play, even when they are puppies. This can be part of the reason Pomeranians and Pomeranian Puppies are so likely to get Intervertebral Disc Disease. Overuse of young or underdeveloped joints can cause damage to occur. However, even outside of Pomeranians, other similar small dog breeds that are bred to have short legs are often stuck with this affliction as well.
Weak First Two Vertebrae
Pomeranians and Pomeranian puppies are also genetically at risk for having the first two vertebrae in their neck be weak. Science is not sure what genetics cause this anomaly, but it does put Pomeranian in the topmost likely dog breeds to suffer from Intervertebral Disc Disease. The weak vertebrae are unable to support the shock that occurs from the day-to-day actions of your Pomeranian and puts that area of the spine at a greater risk for herniation and Intervertebral Disc Disease.
Oddly enough, some research shows cold weather can be an exacerbator for Intervertebral Disc Disease. Cold weather causes muscles to tense and harden, affecting your Poms spinal discs’ ability to absorb shock. Cold weather may not be enough to cause Intervertebral Disc Disease all on its own. But if your Pomeranian is already beginning to show signs of Intervertebral Disc Disease, it could speed up the process.
The onset of Intervertebral Disc Disease can also have to do with your Pomeranian’s environment, for example, if there are lots of stairs in the house where he lives. If there is also another dog living in your home that causes your Pomeranian or Pomeranian puppy to be active or play very hard, it can contribute to the development of the disease. A close eye on your Pomeranian puppy and his behavior can help to ensure he isn’t overusing his young joints or damaging his body, which could lead to Intervertebral Disc Disease.
How Intervertebral Disc Disease can Affect Your Pomeranian
This condition can significantly impact a Pomeranian’s or a Pomeranian puppy’s life. If Intervertebral Disc Disease goes untreated, it can cause your Pomeranian to feel great pain which can have a multitude of effects. It can make your once sweet, playful, and energetic Pomeranian become lethargic and withdrawn. He may also become irritable and not willing to be petted because even the slightest pressure can be extremely painful.
The Severity of Intervertebral Disc Disease
This condition can get fairly severe if not treated properly. Because of the herniated disc pressing on the spinal cord, your Pomeranian may lose feeling in his back legs entirely. If swift action is taken at this point, he may be able to gain the sense back slowly but surely with plenty of help from a veterinarian physical therapist, massages, and proper medications. If left for too long in this state, however, it may become a permanent disability.
Intervertebral Disc Disease can also result in a condition called avascular necrosis in your Pomeranian. Avascular necrosis is the effect of losing blood supply to the bone, causing the bone to die. The overuse of some types of medications that are associated with arthritis, or some injuries associated with Intervertebral Disc Disease can cause this effect to happen. There is also a risk after invasive bone surgery, like the ones needed for Intervertebral Disc Disease, the patient can contract avascular necrosis. Although this affliction sounds frightening, there are cures for it. Medications or another operation can help to take care of this issue.
Life Expectancy of a Pomeranian With Intervertebral Disc Disease
Fortunately, with proper preventative measures and treatments, your Pomeranian’s or Pomeranian puppy’s life expectancy will most likely be unaffected by Intervertebral Disc Disease. If you don’t treat Intervertebral Disc Disease properly, your Pomeranian may live a long life, but it could be painful, and depressing. Making sure to pay attention to your Pomeranian’s and Pomeranian puppy’s body language and symptoms can be life-changing.
Signs Your Pomeranian Might Have Intervertebral Disc Herniation
The most accurate way to tell if your Pomeranian is suffering from Intervertebral Disc Herniation is to bring him to the vet where they will utilize tests such as x-rays and ultrasounds to look into your Pom and see if he is suffering from Intervertebral Disc Disease.
What Symptoms to Look For
There are symptoms you, as the dog owner, can look for to give you a hint as to whether or not your Pomeranian is suffering from Intervertebral Disc Disease. If your Pomeranian has recently had some behavioral changes, there is a chance he could be in pain from a herniated disc or Intervertebral Disc Disease. One of the behavioral changes your Pom may experience if he is suffering from Intervertebral Disc Disease is irritability. Your Pomeranian will most likely be in a fair amount of pain if he is experiencing Intervertebral Disc Herniation and even a little pat on the back could cause him a significant amount of pain.
Another behavioral change you may observe in your Pomeranian is him not being able to do the same things he used to be able to do. For example, if he used to run up the stairs or jump onto the bed spiritedly and he suddenly starts to hesitate to do those things, it may mean he is experiencing pain.
One other obvious symptom is if your Pomeranian struggles to get up from resting. For example, if you can see his legs are locking up during exercise or it takes him a significant amount of time standing up from laying down, those signs could mean he is experiencing pain in his hindquarters.
Pairing all of those symptoms with other clinical signs the vet can provide for you, you can be fairly certain your Pomeranian or Pomeranian Puppy has Intervertebral Disc Disease. In which case you can let your vet know they should test him for this specific condition and ask for treatment recommendations.
How Intervertebral Disc Disease can Progress
Intervertebral Disc Disease over time, if untreated will only get worse. If your Pomeranian begins with only a slight ache or limp, he could eventually lose feeling and control of his lower half completely. Typically, the way it will start is there will be a reluctance when your Pomeranian tries to stand up from resting, and a round of stiff weakness after a long walk or too much physical exertion. After that, it will turn into a refusal to do the things he used to do. For example, he may whine or cry when prompted to eat or use the bathroom. He may refuse to go upstairs or jump up onto the bed like he may have done before. This is likely because he knows he will cause pain or more injury to himself if he does these actions.
How to Care for and Treat Your Pomeranian for Intervertebral Disc Disease
Diet Supplements that May Help to Prevent Intervertebral Disc Disease
Unfortunately, diet alone cannot reverse this condition, but specific vitamins and supplements may prevent the disease. For example, bone and muscle support like glucosamine and chondroitin will help the discs not harden as quickly. As well as antioxidants like Vitamins C and E will help with swelling and potentially alleviate pain if the symptoms have already started.
It is very important to always consult your veterinarian before giving your dog any type of drugs or supplements. Some supplements in too high concentrations can be toxic to your dog.
Preventative Measures you can Take
One of the main ways you can help prevent this condition in your Pomeranian is to keep a close eye on what he is jumping on and off of. For example, if you have a tall sofa or bed, the purchase of doggy stairs can be a good investment. Dog steps ensure that when you are away or unable to watch your pomeranian closely, you can be sure he isn’t participating in actions that could injure him. In addition, there are many affordable options out there for ramps and stairs that can help your Pomeranian move freely around your house without problems.
Keeping your Pomeranian or Pomeranian puppy’s weight down can also assist in preventing Intervertebral Disc Disease. The more weight on your Pomeranian puppy’s bones, the harder the muscles have to work to keep them moving. Another consequence of more weight on your Pomeranian means when he makes those big jumps there is more weight coming down on all of his joints and muscles, which can cause Intervertebral Disc Disease all on its own.
Keeping your Pomeranian at a healthy weight can be as simple as limiting portions and providing him with a high protein and low-calorie diet. These qualities are easier to find in higher quality dog foods sold at pet stores versus a department store or drug store. Your veterinarian will also have suggestions of brands that will be good for your dog and their weight treatment.
The first and foremost step is to bring your Pom to the vet. You must understand the severity of Intervertebral Disc Disease in your Pomeranian before you will be able to understand it and treat it appropriately. After you get a concept of how your Pomeranian is feeling, the next important step is keeping him comfortable. This may mean sticking to a strict cycle of medications or supplements in his food. It could also mean keeping him warm and helping him exercise in an appropriate way. You and your vet will be able to come up with a plan if your Pomeranian gets diagnosed with Intervertebral Disc Disease, and it is up to you to help your Pomeranian overcome this disadvantage and live the happy life he deserves to live.
There are several different types of treatments for Intervertebral Disc Disease, such as medication and surgery. The treatments depend on the severity of the condition. If Intervertebral Disc Disease has just begun to develop in your Pomeranian, a round of oral anti-inflammatory drugs and plenty of cage rest can bring your fluffy friend back to its former glory, potentially within the first 48 hours of the first dose.
If the Intervertebral Disc Disease has advanced enough in your Pomeranian and the medication doesn’t seem to be working well enough, your vet may need to resort to surgical options. The good news is the results of the surgeries have a very optimistic outcome. Sources report a success rate of over 80%, with patients returning to a healthy and active lifestyle after the procedure. The rate of recovery does depend on a case-by-case basis; however, most cases end up being successful.
The process of the surgery is relatively straightforward. The first step would be to cut a small window in the bone surrounding the spinal cord to gain access to the disc material. Then they make an incision and extract the herniated material, which results in pressure being relieved off of the spinal cord and leaving room for healing to take place. Though there are very few complications associated with this procedure, one stands out for being somewhat more common than the rest. As a reaction to some of the chemicals used in operation and the regained mobility of their back legs, some dogs have a minor episode of seizures. Often these seizures are minor and respond well to medication. Your veterinarian will most likely keep a very close eye on your Pomeranian after the operation to ensure his safety.
After surgery for Intervertebral Disc Disease, rehabilitation is necessary for a full recovery. The amount of rehabilitation will depend on how far along the progression of the disease was before treatment. For example, suppose your Pomeranian had lost all operations of his back legs before the surgery. In that case, he will likely need to relearn how to walk and strengthen the muscles in his legs back to an operational level. On the other hand, if your Pomeranian has only just started to exhibit symptoms of Intervertebral Disc Disease, there is a chance he may just need a few weeks of rest and limited activity to make a full recovery. You and your vet will talk about the following steps to take for your individual Pomeranian’s or Pomeranian puppy’s best course of recovery.
How to Help Your Pomeranian Live a Fulfilling Life With Intervertebral Disc Disease
You can take many steps to ensure your Pomeranian or Pomeranian Puppy lives a fulfilling life despite their high potential of getting Intervertebral Disc Disease. Take responsible care of your Pomeranian by feeding him a well-balanced diet with supplements, keeping an eye on what he jumps on and off of, and taking him in for regular check-ups with your vet. There should be no reason your Pom won’t live a very long and happy life.