How Much Does Slipped Disc Surgery for a Dog Cost?

Written by: Staff

The intervertebral disc, the cushion between the bones of the spine, can rupture or even swell over time, causing damage to the dog’s spinal cord.

This damage can either progress and happen over time, which can be treated if detected early and cause few complications, or in the case of intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), the discs which serve as the cushion will rupture, causing extreme pain, a loss of feeling and/or a loss of limb function.

If this were to happen, your vet, depending on the damage, will recommend a course of action which would include surgery and medication.

Dachshund by Nick Savchenko, on Flickr
Dachshund” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Nick Savchenko

Intervertebral disc disease (slipped disc) dog surgery cost

The cost of slipped disc surgery for your dog will greatly depend on the damage and where it occurred on the spinal cord.  Referred to as neurolocalization, this refers to the classification of where the damage occurred on the spinal cord, broken down into large regions from cervical vertebral 1-5 to lumbar vertebrae 4 through the sacrum.  As with any other surgery, it will also depend on the amount of pre-op/post-op work (discussed below) that needs to be done, your geographical location, your dog and the vet you use.

The total costs, when we factor in a good majority of the pre-operative tests mentioned below can add up to more than $5,000 to $10,000 for complete treatment, but if more specialists, prescriptions and/or treatments are needed, then it is not unheard of to see dog owners spend more than $16,000+, with ongoing medication costs averaging $175 a month without pet insurance.

Embrace Pet Insurance mentions the costs can be very steep once advanced imaging studies are considered.  $1,000 to $3,000 can be the typical cost for just the sophisticated imaging techniques, whereas the surgical procedures alone can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000., an IVDD support website, created a price list of multiple IVDD knowledgeable vets for conservative treatment.  Browsing the list, those who did report the costs ranged anywhere from $2,500 to more than $6,500.  A lot of these costs would include the total costs of surgery, an overnight stay at the hospital and related tests such as a CT scan, MRI, blood tests, anesthesia, imaging, prescriptions and/or physical therapy.

This Diary of a Real-Life Veterinarian blog post discussed the outcome of two dog’s and their IVDD journey.  In one circumstance, the final bill for one dog was $7,000, including recovery, while the multiple blog comments on the post stated they were quoted anywhere from $6,000 to $9,000+

On this forum thread, members discussed what it would cost to treat their dachshunds back problems, and some of the comments inside the thread stated you should be prepared to spend upwards of $4,500.

The extra costs to consider

How the vet diagnoses your dog will depend on the symptoms and the breed.  If, for example, your breed was predisposed to intervertebral disc disease, then there could be a good chance IVDD is, indeed, the problem.  However, depending on other symptoms, additional tests may be required and need to be budgeted for on top of the estimates mentioned above, including:

Symptoms of IVDD

Treatment plan

As a slipped disc diagnosis can greatly vary, the treatment plan, because of this, can greatly vary as well.  If the vet finds the spinal cord has minimal damage, then he or she will recommend crate rest, pain medication and a follow-up visit to monitor the dog’s progress.  To determine the damage, your vet will take either an MRI, CT Scan and/or Myelography.

If the damage is much greater, then the treatment plan will depend on the severity of the damage.  In most cases, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroid drugs will more than likely be prescribed to see if it is effective enough to remedy the situation.

If medication doesn’t help and/or the pain is deemed too severe, then surgery will be the last resort, which is often determined by an outside specialist.  In the field, this can include fenestration or decompressive surgery, and the type will be depended upon the x-ray results and diagnostic tests performed at your vet’s office.

Recovery process

Following any surgery, your dog will be hospitalized for a few days while the office monitors the dog’s condition and bowel/bladder control.  Once the functions have returned to normal, such as going to the bathroom and walking, then your dog can return home.  The recovery will depend on the damage done in the first place, if physical therapy is performed after and if the dog is motivated to recover.

IVDD Affected Breeds

Can a dog recover from IVDD without surgery?

The chances of recovery without surgery, according to VCA Hospitals, will depend on the stage of the disease.  A Stage I disc disease, for example, will produce mild pain and can self-correct itself in a few days; however, a Stage V disc disease can cause paralysis and a loss of feeling for your dog.  In this case, surgery may be required and must be confined in order to see progress.  The sooner this surgery is completed, the better the prognosis and future can be for your dog’s future.   The herniated disc recovery time without surgery, again, depending on the stage, can be as little as a few days or weeks if confined or never if paralysis is suspected.

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