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Dear Daisy Dog

My 9-year-old dachshund was diagnosed with intervertebral disc disease. His back legs are so wobbly that he is unable even to walk through grass.

My veterinarian treated him with an injection and pills. I want to avoid surgery. Would acupuncture or some other therapy help?

Daisy Responds

Yes, acupuncture and physical therapy might very well be effective.

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) starts with deterioration of one or more of the cushion-like discs between the vertebrae, the bones of the spine.

When a disc degenerates, it pushes against the spinal cord, causing pain and interfering with normal nerve and muscle function.

My dachshund cousin Dale has mild IVDD, with back pain of variable intensity.

His treatment includes crate rest, pain medication, a steroid anti-inflammatory to decrease the size of the protruding disc, and a muscle relaxant for back spasms.

At the other end of the spectrum is severe IVDD, marked by paralysis and loss of bladder and bowel function. It is best treated by immediate surgery.

Between these two extremes is moderate IVDD, characterized by pain and loss of coordination.

It can be treated surgically – or with medication, acupuncture and physical therapy, called “physical rehabilitation” in the canine world.

Surgery removes the pressure of the defective disc on the spinal cord, but in one of four dachshunds, IVDD recurs in another disc in one to two years.

If you prefer to avoid surgery but want to improve your dog’s hind leg function and minimize pain, talk with your veterinarian about supplementing his medications with acupuncture and physical rehabilitation.

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