Veterinary Hospital Undertakes Study into New Treatment for Canine Disc Disease

Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine in the USA are currently conducting a study investigating the use of an injection to dissolve affected discs in dogs with acute intervertebral disc disease (IVDD).

The study, headed by Dr Nicholas Jeffrey DVM, is being undertaken with chondrodystrophic dogs- breeds with long backs and short legs (such as dachshunds) who are commonly affected by IVDD.

IVDD occurs when a disc that sits between the bones of the vertebrae bulges or herniates and impinges on the blood flow and nerves to the hind limbs, commonly referred to as a ‘slipped disc’. It can result in neurological symptoms varying in severity from an uncoordinated gait, knuckling with the hind feet or full hindlimb paralysis.



Some dogs can recover with strict conservative therapy including pain relief, cage rest and physiotherapy. More severe cases require decompression surgery to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord. This study only includes dogs with less severe symptoms and have intact sensory function in their hindlimbs.

Dr Jeffrey’s trial involves injecting an enzyme, chondroitinase ABC, into the spinal cord to dissolve the diseased disc, therefore relieving the impingement. The aim is to compare the recovery of dogs receiving the injection, with dogs receiving only conservative management. Their hope is that this new method will result in faster healing times, measured by time to walking and pain levels.

The first patient in the trial, Oscar, a 5 year old miniature dachshund, had a promising recovery with no adverse effects noted from the injection. According to Dr Jeffrey, Oscar was much more comfortable after the procedure compared to dogs after spinal surgery. The process itself is fast, with the disc being dissolved in a few hours, but the injury to the spinal cord takes longer to recover from. All patients receive the injection alongside conservative management. Oscar was able to walk unaided after 20 days, similar to the time taken for dogs to walk after spinal surgery. After 12 weeks, he was able to walk normally and was starting to run again.

The researchers hope that this treatment may offer an alternative to surgery for those owners who may struggle with the costs of spinal surgery or who are worried about the risks of an invasive procedure.

As far as we are aware, the study does not include a control group for comparison.

We look forward to seeing the results of this trial and where it could lead.

To read more about this and other studies at Texas A&M School of Veterinary & Biomedical Sciences, head to TAMU Veterinary Clinical Trials | StudyPages