HOW TO Treat Your Dog’s Wobbler Syndrome




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Wobbler SyndromeAs your dog ages, it’s natural for him to develop back problems from overuse and natural wear and tear. Wobbler syndrome, however, is a painful back condition that can start to have painful effects at just 3 years of age.

According to PetMD.com, wobbler syndrome, also known as cervical spondylomyelopathy (CSM), “is a disease of the cervical spine (at the neck) that is commonly seen in large- and giant-breed dogs. CSM is characterized by compression of the spinal cord and/or nerve roots, which leads to neurological signs and/or neck pain. The term ‘wobbler syndrome’ is used to describe the characteristic wobbly gait (walk) that affected dogs have.”

Wobbler syndrome is very prevalent in Doberman Pinchers, Rottweilers, Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds, Saint Bernards, Dalmations, German Shepherds and Basset Hounds, which are all predisposed to this condition.

What Can Cause Wobbler Syndrome?

There are two suspected main causes for wobbler syndrome. The first is due to the rapid growth that predisposed breeds experience. The other cause is believed to be a dog’s diet; if he consumes excess amounts of protein, calcium or calories, he may develop this syndrome.

 What are the Symptoms of Wobbler Syndrome?

Here are the most common symptoms, according to petMD.com and petplace.com:

  • Neck pain
  • Short-strided walking; spastic movement with a floating appearance or extreme weakness in the front legs
  • Difficulty rising to a standing position
  • Worn toenails, scuffed paws
  • Increased extension of all four legs
  • Partial or complete paralysis
  • Variable muscle atrophy, especially in the front legs
  • Occasionally, the presence of Horner’s Syndrome
  • Worsening of symptoms when the neck is flexed

Wobbler SyndromeVetinfo.com warns, “The symptoms of wobbler syndrome usually worsen over time. They start in your dog’s hind legs, where he’ll develop an unsteady gait. This unsteadiness may spread to the front legs. If your dog’s case of wobbler syndrome is severe, the dog may stagger dramatically and even fall over.”

How is Wobbler Syndrome Diagnosed?

Your vet will need to conduct a full exam on your dog including a complete blood count, chemistry profile and urinalysis to rule out other diseases.

Cervical X-rays may also be taken, as well as an MRI to assess what condition your dog may be in.

“Wobbler syndrome is diagnosed via visualization. X-rays, myelographs, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will allow your doctor to view the spine and vertebrae,” reports petMD.com. “X-rays should be used mainly to rule out bony disorders, while myelographs, CT and MRI are used to visualize the compression of the spinal cord.”

In severe cases, your dog may also need a cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) analysis, which will help to determine the cause of his symptoms.

How is Wobbler Syndrome Treated?

If your dog is found to be suffering from wobbler syndrome, he will most likely need to have surgery to alleviate the spinal compression. The surgery will fuse your dog’s damaged vertebrae together, which can compromise the surrounding vertebrae.

After surgery, it is important to restrict your dog’s activity for two to three months to ensure that the bones heal and fuse properly. Then your vet will likely recommend physical therapy to strengthen your dog’s muscles and ensure there is no muscle loss.

PetMD.com offers an alternative to surgery: “If surgical treatment is not elected for, treatment may be given on an outpatient basis. Dogs that cannot walk should be kept on soft bedding, and should be closely observed and turned to lie on their other sides every four hours to prevent bed sores from developing.”

How Can I Prevent My Dog From Developing Wobbler Syndrome?

If your dog is one of the breeds that is susceptible to this condition, you must be vigilant and on alert for the symptoms mentioned above. It is also advised that dogs with wobbler syndrome should not be bred.

It may also help if you feed your dog a diet that is low in calcium, protein and phosphorous. Any dog food that promotes rapid growth should be avoided.

“Your pet may be placed in a neck brace and will need to be confined for a set amount of time (usually four to eight weeks). Limit jumping and leaping off of elevated areas and reduce obesity,” petMD.com recommends.

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Find A Vet HOW TO articles are intended for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian about any health issues affecting your dog.

Do you have a question about wobbler syndrome? Submit it to i Love Dogs’ Ask a Vet here

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Kara Ogushi

Contributing writer Kara Ogushi is a pet mom to two dogs and five rabbits. When she isn't writing travel tips for pooches, she's exploring new ways to share and create media.

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1 comments
Christina S
Christina S

Veterinary Neurologist, Dr. Filippo Adamo, has also recently invented/patented a new surgical technique in curing Wobbler's -- artificial disc implant; the same standard of care that humans are held to but for our pets!  You can learn more at www.wobblersyndrome.com

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