Overview of Canine Cervical Vertebral Instability (Wobbler Syndrome)
Cervical vertebral instability (CVI) is also known by multiple names in dogs including Wobbler Syndrome, caudal cervical spondylomyelopathy, cervical vertebral malformation, cervical spondylolisthesis, cervical stenosis and cervical spondylopathy. Wobbler syndrome is a term loosely used to encompass compressive spinal cord lesions affecting the caudal cervical spine (the spinal cord at base of neck) in large- and giant-breed dogs. The cause is likely to be the result of genetic, nutritional and biochemical influences.
What to Watch For
Signs of cervical vertebral instability in dogs may include:
There are two distinct diseases described as Wobbler Syndrome.
Dogs that have been diagnosed with Wobblers Syndrome should not be used for breeding or working.
Diagnosis of Cervical Vertebral Instability (CVI) in Dogs
Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical and neurological examination to assess the location and severity of the problem. Additional tests may include:
Treatment of Cervical Vertebral Instability (CVI) in Dogs
These patients usually require surgery to treat the spinal cord compression. Surgical treatment is aimed at decompression (relieving the impingement of the spinal cord) and depending on the nature of the lesion, fusion or stabilization may be recommended.
Medical treatment consisting of glucocorticosteroids and rest may alleviate some signs of disease but effects may be temporary and may cause gastroenteritis and cystitis.
Physical therapy is an important aspect of home care for Wobbler’s syndrome. Your pet may be placed in a neck brace and will need to be confined for a set amount of time (usually 4 to 8 weeks). Limit jumping and leaping off of elevated areas and reduce obesity.
In-depth Information on Cervical Vertebral Instability (CVI) in Dogs
Wobbler Syndrome is a term loosely used to encompass compressive spinal cord lesions affecting the caudal cervical spine (the spinal cord at base of neck) in large- and giant-breed dogs. The syndrome represents a developmental malformation and malarticulation of the cervical vertebrae (neck bone) in dogs that causes compression of the spinal cord.
The cause is likely to be multifactorial with genetic, nutritional and biochemical influences. The presence of a large, heavy head on a long neck may create abnormal forces that contribute to abnormal vertebral development.
The spinal cord compression causes the clinical signs, particularly in the rear legs. Commonly, the first signs are simply slipping or scuffing the paws during exercise. Other signs are highly variable and depend on the degree of compression and the duration of the signs.
Most cases have an acute onset. The course of the disease may be progressive (worsen over time) or static (be static and not change over time). Occasionally, dogs can be affected by an acute onset of quadraplegia (paralysis in all four limbs). Many times these dogs have shown no previous signs of neck disease and have no history of trauma.
Two distinct diseases are described as Wobbler Syndrome. Both diseases have similar signs that relate to the dog’s gait, which include weakness and incoordination in the pelvic (rear) limbs. It can cause paralysis of both thoracic and pelvic limbs.
The first disease is seen in young dogs arising from developmental abnormalities causing malformation and malarticulation of the spinal column and is more common in young dogs from six-months to two years of age. In this disease all cervical joints may be affected.
This disease is seen most frequently in Great Danes but other large- and giant-breed dogs may be affected. Nutritional studies in Great Danes have shown that ad libitum (free-choice) feeding of some diets in young dogs can increase the prevalence of the disorder. Chronic, excessive calcium intake in young dogs can result in hypercalcitonism, which disturbs skeletal remodeling and ossification and may contribute to abnormal vertebral development.