Wobbler syndrome in dogsWobbler syndrome is a dog disease caused by damage to the nerves in the area of the spinal cord.
Mainly large dog breeds are affected by the Wobbler syndrome.
The term wobbler comes from the English word "to wobble". This means "wobble" and describes the gait of the animal, if it is affected by this disease.
Most often affected are large breeds of dogs, such as z.B. the Doberman. Male dogs suffer almost twice as often as females.
Causes of the Wobbler syndrome
Wobbler syndrome, which is also known as spinal ataxia, can be of five different types. On the one hand this can already be congenital. Then a malformation of the spinal column is present. On the other hand the Wobbler syndrome occurs however also by wrong movements. As a result
– the spinal cord between the third and seventh cervical vertebrae – the ligaments between the vertebrae – the articular processes
Further for the occurrence of the Wobbler syndrome intervertebral disc illnesses are possible, caused by overloading, wear or chronic nature. Affected are especially dogs of older age.
In addition, improper nutrition, neoplasms and abscesses are responsible for spinal ataxia.
Symptoms of Wobbler syndrome
The Wobbler syndrome was first described in the Basset.
Whether your dog is affected by the Wobbler syndrome, you can recognize on the basis of a change of the body posture. In most cases the animal walks with lowered head, because the lifting of the head leads to considerable pain. In addition, the syndrome is recognizable by an unsteady, wobbly gait. Dog owners should also become attentive if their dog is standing wide-legged. In the course of the disease, the animal has problems standing up. Wobbler syndrome is most noticeable when the dog walks in circles. Especially during a faster gait, an exaggeratedly increased stride length in the front area is occasionally noticeable.
It is remarkable that the ataxia develops insidiously. First of all the rear extremities are affected. As a result, many dog owners notice their dog's disease relatively late. Only in 15 percent of all cases, the Wobbler Syndrome becomes noticeable abruptly.
Diagnosis of spinal ataxia
Great Dane is one of the more frequently affected breeds.
Neurological examinations are used to diagnose spinal ataxia. The veterinarian checks different postures-. Postural reactions of the dog. On the whole, these reactions are delayed. Due to the failure of inhibitory interneurons, an increase in reflexes in the area of the hind limbs is visible. Characteristic for the Wobbler syndrome are reduced reflexes in the front legs. Under certain circumstances these can also be completely absent. Spasticity occurs sporadically.
A very important procedure for diagnosis is the X-ray. For this a short anesthesia of the dog makes itself necessary. If the veterinarian is not quite sure, he also performs a computer tomography – CT for short. This allows a very reliable diagnosis in the presence of changes in the area of the cervical vertebrae. It is worth noting for the pet owner that in most cases a CT can only be performed in specialized veterinary clinics.
Also with the help of magnetic resonance imaging – MRI for short – existing static compressions can be visualized. MRI is considered to be the safest method for detecting the disease.
Wobbler syndrome – treatment options
Diagnosis and treatment are usually complex and expensive.
Two treatment methods are available for the therapy of spinal ataxia. Prere relief as well as stabilization of the vertebral areas can be achieved by surgery. A combination of both treatments is also possible. Before choosing a treatment, a precise diagnosis is essential.
The standard procedure for herniated discs is the so-called "ventral slot". This involves proceeding from the underside of the neck to the intervertebral disc, removing the underside of the annulus fibrosus of the disc, milling a hole in the vertebral body and removing the prolapsed disc material.
In cases of more lateral and more backward localized disc herniation, (dorsal) laminectomy is the standard method. Here the vertebral arch (i.e. the roof of the spinal canal) of the narrowed area is removed, so that the spinal cord can avoid compression from below upwards. This procedure is much more difficult and risky than the ventral slot, any injury to the vertebral artery can lead to bleeding to death. Stabilizing procedures aim to eliminate the excessive mobility of the vertebrae in relation to each other. For this purpose, the spinous processes (proces spinosi) can be connected with a metal plate, the articular processes (proces articulares) can be screwed or wired together (usually combined with a ventral slot), or the vertebral bodies can be connected by cortical screws, a plate, or by Steinmann nails and polymethylmethacrylate.
Insertion of an autologous bone graft (usually taken from the same animal) after distraction of the spine may also be used for stabilization.
Horses can also be affected.
Conservative therapy: Wobbler's syndrome can in principle be treated surgically. Since surgical intervention is also associated with risks, conservative therapy may be sufficient for mild forms and stable courses without significant deterioration of the condition. It includes strict immobilization of the dog (short walks, leash restraint, preventing play and jumping, use of a chest harness). In young dogs, it is useful to check the composition of the diet (calcium). Analgesic non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be used for acute pain.
Wobbler syndrome in dogs: treatment and prognosis
Depending on the type and degree of the disease, the Wobbler syndrome in dogs can be treated either medicinally or surgically. Medication is long-term glucocorticoid treatment, sometimes in combination with selenium, anabolic steroids, vitamin E and cobalt. In surgical treatment, the affected instability of the vertebral joints is strengthened with screws. In mild cases, spinal ataxias can heal completely, but a prognosis for the healing success is extremely difficult to make and depends strongly on the individual clinical picture.