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Is Your Older German Shepherd Hurting? It Could Be Intervertebral Disk Disease. (IVDD)

Updated: Oct 27, 2022

German Shepherds of all ages can suffer from Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD), but the condition is more common in older German Shepherds. IVDD is the result of aging and wear on the spinal disks. As they age, these disks (or cushions between the vertebrae break down, harden, and shrink in size, causing pain to shoot up into your dog's neck or back. Symptoms can include pain, loss of mobility, and even paralysis. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to help alleviate symptoms or stop the progression of the disease altogether. In this blog post, we discuss symptoms and treatment for degenerative disk disease and tips on preventing it if possible.

What is IVDD:

Intervertebral disc disease is caused by a deterioration of the outer part of the disc, which then eventually results in a disc rupture or herniation. This can happen to any disc in the spine, and symptoms will differ depending on where the rupture or herniation is located in the spine. Typically a rupture will happen when your fur friend tries to jump off the bed or sofa, which may not have been a big deal for him in the past, but now that the discs have weakened, even a small jump becomes a big deal.

What are the symptoms of IVDD in Dogs:

(Note. Symptoms may be sudden or gradual)

  • Pain

  • Nerve damage

  • Rear legs knuckling under when walking

  • Weakening in the back end

  • Limp tail

  • Urinary or fecal incontinence

  • Trembling legs

  • Rear legs cross over when walking

  • Loss of mobility

  • paralysis

Treatment Options for IVDD

If your older German Shepherd exhibits any of the symptoms above, he should be taken to a trusted veterinarian to be examined immediately to ensure the best possible outcome. Once your fur friend is under veterinary care, he will undergo a neurological exam. Additionally, he will most likely need an X-ray or possibly an MRI to determine the location of the disc(s) causing the problem.

Treatment may include one or a combination of the following:

  • Anti Inflammatory Medication (NSAIDs): To help reduce swelling in mild to moderate DDD.

  • Limited Activity and REST

  • Surgery: To remove hardened disc material that may be pressing against the spine. Surgery may be needed when NSAIDS and limited activity don't work.

  • Physical Therapy: This can include hydrotherapy, laser, and manual therapies.

Tips for Preventing IVDD:

Although advancing age is a significant factor in IVDD, there are still ways you can be proactive in keeping IVDD at bay in your older German Shepherd. Here are some tips:

  • Keep weight in check or even on the leaner side.

  • Use ramps or small steps instead of letting your dog jump out of a vehicle or off a bed.

  • Monitor your fur friend's activity level closely

  • A high-quality CDB oil may have a protective effect on IVDD, but it is also an anti-inflammatory as well.

  • Collagen Supplements

If you think your older German Shepherd is hurting, it could be Intervertebral disease. The symptoms of this condition are often mistaken for other types of pain and can lead to a serious disability if not treated early on. The condition doesn't have an exact age range for onset but typically occurs between 10-12 years old, and IVDD affects about 15% of all dogs over eight years old, so if you notice any unusual behavior from your dog's back end - don't wait! Schedule a veterinary.

For a list of supplements we use for our older German Shepherd Residents, please visit:

And our preferred CBD oil is Dr. HempDog. Not all CBD oil is created equal. There's a lot of crap out there, so you have to know what you are buying to ensure the comfort you seek for your older German Shepherd is actually in the bottle you're buying, and so you're not just throwing your money out the window. We have done just that, and it doesn't feel good.

What we have found to work are Dr. HempDog hemp oil tinctures.

They have a great article on how you can help your dog navigate arthritis naturally. You can read it here:

And if you would like to try it, you can get 10% off on us by going to: and entering discount code "WOODYSPLACE"

You can listen to our coinciding #Lifewitholddogs podcast here:

***** Disclaimer: Throughout the "20 Most Common Health Issues in Senior German Shepherds" series, each blog post is expressed explicitly from our point of view and is not to be substituted for the professional medical expertise of your trusted veterinarian.


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