Another disease from which Silky Terriers suffer is called Intervertebral disk disease. This disease can either come on suddenly or can slowly develop in dogs; smaller dogs are more frequently affected than larger dogs. In this disease, there is a degeneration of the disks of cartilage that are found between the vertebrae and this can cause damage to the spinal cord. Depending on the severity and the duration of the damage, the dog may be able to slowly recover or he may become partially paralyzed.
The vertebral column is made up of a series of vertebrae through which the spinal cord passes; in order to prevent the individual vertebrae from rubbing against one another (which would wear down the bone and cause a great deal of pain), tough disks of a cartilaginous material are found between one vertebra and the next. These disks are made up of two different types of material; a soft, jelly-like material on the inside and a harder material on the outside. For reasons unknown, in Intervertebral disk disease, the jelly-like material begins to change consistency and becomes much stiffer. This stiff material puts pressure on and compresses the spinal cord; it could also erupt into the spinal canal.
Affected disks are most often found in the middle of the vertebral canal, known as the thoracolumbar region (this disease is often known as Thoracolumbar disease); in this case, the effects of disk problems will appear in the back legs, while the front legs will not be affected. The disease most often pops up in dogs between three and seven years old and may present with the dog feeling some back pain; in more severe cases, his back legs could be completely paralyzed and he will not have any sensation in his limbs. If your dog seems reluctant to play or climb stairs, if he becomes clumsy or starts crying when you touch or lift him or has serious difficulties walking, you should immediately take him to the vet or he may risk paralysis.
Your vet will most likely perform a neurological test, which assesses the dog's motor functions to try to determine the extent and location of spinal cord damage. He will examine whether the dog can walk, if his walking is clumsy and which legs seem to be affected. If the dog can't walk, the vet will attempt to pinch or put a great deal of pressure on your dog's back toes to see if there is a pain reaction. More than just pull his feet away, your dog should cry out or try to bite to indicate that he feels pain; simply pulling the feet away could merely indicate a reflex reaction. Radiographs may be done, but a myelogram, done by injecting a dye into the spinal canal, is the definitive diagnostic tool; CT scans may also be done.
Treatment options vary and depend on the severity of the damage sustained by the spinal cord. In mild cases, the vet may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs, like steroids, and perhaps muscle relaxants; the dog must also rest. In severe cases, surgery can be undertaken in which a hole is made in the vertebra to relieve pressure and the degenerated disk material is removed.