Intervertebral Disc Disease and Paralysis

Intervertebral Disc Disease and Paralysis

What is IVDD?

Between every vertebra lies a spinal disc. Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) involves the degeneration of the intervertebral discs resulting in disc herniation causing spinal cord or spinal nerve compression. While all breeds can be affected, the toy breed dogs such as Dachshunds, Poodles, Chihuahuas, and Pekingese are more commonly affected.

Clinical signs range from intermittent episodes of pain to complete paralysis. The amount of pressure and damage to the spinal cord by intervertebral disc(s) determines the degree of pain, neurological symptoms, and paralysis.

Treatment Options

The goal is pain management and the return to normal function. The treatment protocol depends on the location of the damaged disc, the severity of the clinical symptoms, the duration of the clinical symptoms, and the breed of the dog. In most situations, western pain management involves the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroids, and enforced rest. In patients with severe intractable pain, paralysis, or recurrent episodes, surgery is the ideal option.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are added to the treatment regimen. Adjustments are gradually made to the concurrent western medications. Massage techniques and rehabilitation exercises are introduced as the patient improves.

Success Rates

I have been treating patients since 2004. There are two major reasons why owners seek my services, the current pain management techniques are not working or the patient is paralyzed and surgery is not possible.  I have succeeded in controlling the level of pain and improving the quality of life for 80 to 90% of my non-paralyzed patients. Approximately 70% of my paralyzed patients gained the ability to walk with mild to moderate deficits. However, these numbers may be skewed to my benefit. I do not hesitate in advising clients that Traditional Chinese Medicine may not give them the results that they seek. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are not a panacea. If there is no nerve function, no viable nerves, the ability to regenerate and heal is greatly diminished.


Toffee’s owner reached out to us for a second opinion. She was concerned about Toffee’s lack of response to his medications, prednisone, and tramadol. She was also worried about the side effects of long-term prednisolone. Toffee’s troubles began three months earlier when he began having difficulty walking. It slowly worsened to a non-ambulatory state. At the time of presentation, not only was Toffee unable to walk, he was unable to lie in a sternal position. He was only able to lay on one side or another. He could not raise his head or hold his chest up. His front limbs did not work properly. At times they would be extremely rigid and at other times they would be so flaccid that they would not support his weight. Surgery was not an option. Toffee also had concurrent medical issues, liver disease and seizures (on medication).

Western Diagnosis: Intervertebral Disc compression between C1 and C7 resulting in four limb paralysis.
Eastern Diagnosis: Blood Stagnation, Kidney Qi Bony Bi Syndrome


Toffee’s response to treatment is an example of perseverance and faith. After his first treatment, he improved slightly; he was able to lie sternally as opposed to lateral recumbency. However, no improvement was observed until after his fifth treatment. After the fifth treatment, with every subsequent treatment his ability to walk improved. His treatments began once weekly, then changed to every two weeks, to every four weeks to 5 weeks. At Toffee’s last treatment, 5/3/2017, Toffee was walking with only mild balance issues. As you can see by the video, Toffee has made a full recovery.


The owners noticed that Toffee was favoring his left front limb. After a physical exam, it was determined that his the inflammation in the cervical region was flaring. Acupuncture sessions began along with Chinese herbs. Because Toffee’s owners recognized Toffee’s symptoms of pain quickly, his response to the treatments was immediate. We were able to extend the time between sessions at a more rapid rate. He was essentially normal after the second treatment. As of 4/2018, we are treating once a month. FYI: Toffee is almost 13 years old.