In-depth Information on Diagnosis
In-depth Information on Treatment
The goal of conservative management in dogs is to allow scar tissue to form around the atlantoaxial joint to stabilize it. Motion of the joint prevents scar tissue from forming, so motion is prevented by placing a neck brace on the dog and by confining it to a cage for several weeks.
The injury to the spinal cord results in inflammation. This can be reduced by the short-term use of steroids.
Most cases managed in this way have a recurrence of symptoms, since the scar tissue is not strong enough to hold the joint stable.
Surgery is usually recommended for this problem due to the high recurrence rate with conservative management in dogs. The goal of surgery is to stabilize the joint using internal devices. These can include wires, pins combined with an epoxy-like cement, or heavy-duty suture material. The joint can also be fused, using screws and bone grafts collected from the dog’s shoulder.
Surgery is very difficult due to the small size of the patient and delicate nature of the bones. After surgery, cage rest, neck braces, and steroids are often used as you would for conservative management.
There is less of a recurrence rate when surgery is performed, but recurrences can still happen due to failure of the implants placed in the bones or failure to follow post-operative instructions. The type of surgery depends on the surgeon’s preference and the specific injury.
The prognosis depends on the severity of the neurological signs present before surgery. The more severe the signs, the more guarded the prognosis. The spinal cord is an unpredictable organ. Accurate predictions are difficult to make as to how much function will recover as well as how long it will take to recover.
Follow-up Care for Dogs with Atlantoaxial Instability
Atlantoaxial instability is a serious problem that requires dedicated and observant owners. Optimal treatment for your dog requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow-up can be critical, especially if your pet does not rapidly improve.