Wobbler Syndrome in Dogs; Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Wobbler Syndrome in Dogs; Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Author WDF Staff


There’s nothing we want more than to keep our dogs healthy and happy for as long as we can. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees we can actually do that. There are various conditions and diseases that can affect our dogs, and one of those conditions is called wobbler syndrome. Like many other conditions, the sooner we spot it, the sooner the treatment can begin. If you’re worried about your dog and notice something weird going on, you should call your vet and schedule an appointment. In the meantime, here are a few things you should know about the wobbler syndrome in dogs.

What is the wobbler syndrome in dogs?

Wobbler syndrome is also referred to as "cervical spondylomyelopathy," which is a more precise description. Wobbler syndrome is a neck (cervical spine) condition that is common in large and giant dog breeds. Compression of the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots occurs in these dogs, resulting in nervous system deficiencies and/or neck pain.

Doberman Pinschers account for around half of all occurrences of wobbler syndrome in dogs; other breeds that are regularly affected include;

Regardless of breed preferences, any dog breed, even tiny breeds, can be affected.

golden-retriever sleeping on steps

Although symptoms may appear later in life, most large breed dogs with wobbler syndrome are diagnosed before they reach the age of three. Wobbler syndrome in Doberman Pinschers and other large-breed dogs usually presents to the veterinarian when they are a little older - the average age of onset is 6 years. Wobbler syndrome is diagnosed more often in male dogs.

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How can I know if my dog has wobbler syndrome?

Most dog owners will not know exactly what’s bugging their dog. However, they will quickly notice something weird is going on. It is pretty hard not to notice the incoordination or possible neck pain in dogs. However, most dog owners think their dogs suffered a severe injury that needs to be treated. That’s when most of us will call our vets and ask for their help.

What are the symptoms of wobbler syndrome in dogs?

The rear limbs of many dogs with wobbler syndrome exhibit an uncoordinated, progressive stride. It's possible that the incoordination will also spread to the front limbs. Muscle mass loss can occur in the back legs as well as between the shoulder blades in affected dogs. Because they drag their feet, their toenails may become worn.

Some dogs with wobbler syndrome suffer severe symptoms, such as neck pain (which can be quite painful) and sudden weakness. The weakness can be so extreme that it prevents the dog from walking at all.

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Wobbler syndrome causes

Wobbler syndrome in Great Danes was once thought to be caused by an overabundance of protein, calcium, and calories. In large-breed dogs, however, nutrition does not appear to have a role in the development of wobbler syndrome. Although it was once considered that body conformation was a significant factor, studies revealed no link between body proportions and the occurrence of wobbler syndrome. Finally, the excessively rapid growth has been hypothesized as a reason, but this has never been proven. Unfortunately, the exact cause has not yet been discovered.

greyhound dog

What is the treatment for wobbler syndrome in dogs?

If a dog's wobbler syndrome can be treated medically rather than surgically, it's usually done as an outpatient procedure. The non-surgical, conservative approach involves controlling discomfort and limiting activities for several months. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly administered to alleviate inflammation and pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots.

To avoid "bedsores," non-ambulatory dogs are kept on soft bedding and turned on a regular basis. Their bladders and bowels must be physically emptied regularly. Physiotherapy can help you keep the dog’s muscle mass and help them recover faster.

Wobbler syndrome is treated surgically by fusing the unstable parts of the cervical spine. Surgical patients will be kept at the veterinary hospital for the first several days of their recovery. In order to facilitate fusion of the affected cervical segments, activity limitation must be total and persistent for at least 2 - 3 months after surgery.

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What is the prognosis for dogs with wobbler syndrome in the long run?

There is a 1–5% probability of major surgical complications in dogs with wobbler syndrome who are treated surgically. Around 20% of dogs with wobbler syndrome will have a recurrence. Medically treated dogs will require ongoing care for the remainder of their lives. Their therapies will evolve as their symptoms worsen. Approximately 25% of dogs who are not surgically treated will remain stable.

World Dog Finder team

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