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What is conservative management for disc disease?

Conservative management has the advantage that it is comparatively inexpensive and avoids surgery. The most important aspect is restriction of movement i.e. cage or crate confinement. This limits further IVD extrusion and exacerbation of the injury. The animal’s natural healing process can then repair the damage to the spinal cord. Pain relief should be given as necessary however the animal must be restricted otherwise they can exacerbate the injury. For pain relief the author prefers to use licenced NSAID analgesics in combination with opioids. The author avoids corticosteroids for treating IVD disease.

Conservative management is indicated for patients with pain only or for those with mild deficits although there may be success with more severe case. Dogs which have lost pain sensation are a surgical emergency and are extremely unlikely to respond to conservative management. Disadvantages of conservative management include a higher rate of recurrence of clinical signs and a higher chance of deterioration or persistent neurological deficits. In addition diagnostic tests may not be performed so the animal may be receiving inappropriate treatment. A protocol for conservative management is detailed on the image.
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