Long-backed, low-slung dogs like corgis are at special risk for intervertebral disk disease, or IVDD. The formal term for long-back short-leggedness in canines is chondrodystrophoidism, a type of dwarfism. Chondrodystrophic dogs usually suffer from Type 1 IVDD, whereby disk material ruptures into the spinal canal.
Intervertebral Disk Disease
You've probably known people suffering from a slipped or ruptured disk. That's basically what happens to a dog with IVDD. Your corgi's vertebrae protect his spinal cord. Disks between the vertebrae provide cushioning. If a disk ruptures, nerve tissue in the dog's spinal cord starts degenerating. Keeping your corgi at a healthy weight could lower the chances of him coming down with IVDD, as obese chondrodystrophic canines are at greater risk of back problems.
IVDD symptoms include reluctance to move, loss of urinary control, trembling, back-arching, touch sensitivity and obvious pain, paralysis or lameness, leg dragging and collapse. Before these severe symptoms occur, your corgi might not want to go up or down stairs, or may stop jumping up on your bed or furniture. Catching evidence of IVDD early means you might be able to save your dog some pain.
Your vet diagnoses IVDD via X-rays and a physical examination of your dog's back. Before resorting to surgery, your vet might try treating your corgi with pain medications and anti-inflammatories as well as rest. If your dog doesn't improve, surgery is your best option. Since this is a delicate procedure, ask your vet for recommendations for a board-certified veterinary neurosurgeon to perform the surgery.
IVDD surgery involves decompressing the spinal cord, a procedure known as a hemilaminectomy. After surgery, your corgi's activity must be strictly limited and the dog confined to a crate or small area while recuperating. It might be two months or longer before your corgi can resume some light activities, such as moderate walks. Your dog will likely require some type of physical therapy. He might require pain medications for the rest of his life. If your dog doesn't regain the use of his hind legs after surgery, ask your vet whether your pet is a candidate for a canine wheelchair. With this device, you and your dog can still enjoy outings.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.