CERVICAL VERTEBRAL INSTABILITY, CERVICAL
What is cervical stenosis?
stenosis is also known as cervical vertebral instability, cervical
spondylopathy or Wobbler syndrome. It is due to the compression of
the spinal cord, usually at the base of the neck.
How does it affect
Although the spinal cord compression occurs in the
neck, the hind legs may sometimes be affected first. The mildest
form of cervical stenosis results in stumbling. This can progress to
a wobbly gait, hence the term “Wobbler syndrome”. In severe cases
there may be sudden total paralysis of all four limbs.
It may be due to instability of one or more of the
vertebrae at the base of the neck (cervical vertebrae) or it may be
due to deformity of these vertebrae, which causes pressure on the
spinal cord. This damages the nerves transmitting information to the
limbs and thus paresis (weakness) or paralysis can occur.
dog suddenly became paralyzed. Is this part of the disease?
Initially the pressure affects your dog’s ability to
move naturally and may be difficult to detect. The incoordination,
however slight, can put extra stress on the intervertebral discs
which act as shock absorbers. If these rupture, excess pressure is
put upon the spinal cord and sudden paralysis may result.
I am told that only large
breed dogs are affected. Is this true?
Yes, the condition is most prevalent in the Great
Dane and the Doberman but Basset Hounds, St Bernard’s, Old English
Sheepdogs, Borzois and Pointers are also commonly affected.
There appears to be variation of the age of onset based on breed.
For example, Great Danes are usually affected when they are young,
about 1-3 years of age, whereas Dobermans and other breeds are
usually 6-9 years of age before any signs are apparent.
How is the condition diagnosed?
Breed and clinical signs are good indicators of cervical stenosis.
With your dog anesthetized, x-rays of the neck will often reveal
abnormalities affecting the cervical vertebrae at the base of the
neck. Definite diagnosis depends upon myelography. This is a
diagnostic technique employing a special radiopaque solution, which
is injected into the spinal canal of an anesthetized dog. A series
of x-rays are then taken of the spine. The area of pressure is
indicated by a thinning of the column of dye at the pressure points.
is the treatment?
Anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics are frequently
used at the outset but the greatest chance of success lies with
surgery, particularly if performed early. Although some dogs respond
very well with medication alone, continued long term use can have
What does surgical treatment involve?
It is important that pressure on the spinal cord is
relieved as soon as possible. Medical treatment with
anti-inflammatory drugs reduces the pressure due to inflammation but
this will not resolve the problem if there is a deformed vertebra or
disc material pressing on the spinal cord.
There are several surgical techniques that can be used to relieve
this pressure and if the surgery is performed at an early stage,
before irreversible damage has occurred, the outlook can be quite
Is there a lot of nursing care involved?
Most veterinarians insist on some hospitalization for
several days following this surgery. It is important that the dog
receives help with walking and must not be allowed to climb steps or
stairs for some time once at home.
Call us anytime to discuss specific nursing problems
if you would call us.
the condition likely to occur again after surgery?
dependent on your pet’s specific condition. If there is an inherent
weakness in the spine, it is possible for the condition to recur at
a later date. However, with modern surgical techniques, this is not