Invertebral Disc Disease in a Shih Tzu -- Cost of surgery?

My mother told me that here Shih Tzu/Maltese mix dog (5-6 years old) was just diagnosed with Invertebral Disc Disease. She told me that they are trying cortisone as a treatment first, but if he doesn’t respond, the only alternative is surgery that would cost $5000+. Are there any vets on the boards that might have additional information? Is this accurate? My mother is planning to have the dog euthanized if the cortisone doesn’t work, and I want to make sure she has accurate information.



I’d take the dog to another vet and get a second opinion and cost of surgery.

So would I, but like I said, it’s not my dog. They’ve been going to this vet for a long time and are convinced of his expertise.

I’m deeply upset that my parents aren’t considering paying for a surgery that (AFAIK) would save the dog’s life. They just don’t value the life of their pet high enough to justify $5000. With surgery, the dog could easily live to be 15 (again AFAIK, which may be completely inaccurate). That gives it 10 (!) more years of life. Isn’t life worth $500 a year? It’s not like they can’t afford it. Yeah, it’s a lot of money, but they have it.

I was hoping to find contradicting information to convince her to see another vet, but I haven’t had good luck on google…



Cost of major neuro surgery varies with location. Around my area, thoracolumbar disc surgery goes for around $1500 to maybe $2000. Five thousand sounds kinda high. Heck, they could go to the veterinary hospital at Penn in Philly and get it done for $3000. Are they in NJ like your location says you are?

Another factor to consider: I see disc disease all the time. The vast majority will respond to agressive corticosteroid therapy. A tiny minority requires surgery.

Also, obesity is a huge negative prognostic indicator. If the dog responds to medical treatment and is obese, I would strongly urge weight loss.

Depending on location, there is often only one veterinarian who does advanced surgical work. In the area where I practice, there is one choice for disc surgery. A second opinion might involve a 300 mile drive.

Our Dauschund had to have disk surgery, and it was around $5000 total. Hers was an emergency case though so we had only an hour or so to decide. The surgery was not all that successful in my opinion. She cannot climb stairs or jump, she drags her back legs about half the time, and doesn’t have very good control of her bladder. She also has a persistant bladder infection and gets scrapes on her chest that won’t heal due to her dragging herself.

We can deal with all of it, but for the cost I would not do it again.

^Yep, disc surgery with results like you describe is possible. Some animals are 100%, while others show no improvement. Most are somewhere between the extremes. Prognostication is difficult.

Have you offered to pay for the surgery?