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Wobbler Syndrome


Wobbler syndrome is caused by a malformation of the vertebrae within the neck. The spinal canal is the tunnel within the vertebra in which the spinal cord lies. In affected dogs, this opening is smaller than normal, causing pressure on the spinal cord.

This prevents nerve impulses from passing through the spinal cord. Additionally, as the animal matures, the space within the vertebrae continues to shrink in relation to the size of the spinal cord.

Instability between the individual neck vertebrae is generally noted in addition to the narrowing of the spinal canal.

While any breed can be affected, over 80% of all cases reported are in Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers and Rottweilers. Genetics definitely play a role.

Symptoms

Usually symptoms appear before four years of age. An unwillingness to bend the neck is usually the first sign, followed by weakness and lack of co-ordination in the rear limbs, progressing to weakness in the front limbs as well.

Risks

This condition is always serious and can progress to complete paralysis. A veterinary examination should be performed at once in animals of these breeds showing the above signs.

Management

Anti-inflammatory medications can provide relief, but they do not correct the abnormal spinal canal within the vertebrae. Surgery can be performed to stabilise the vertebrae and/or to remove a portion of the vertebrae, thus allowing more room for the spinal cord.

A full recovery is not always achieved. The surgery that is required is usually performed by a veterinary specialist.

As the disease has a genetic component, it is important not to breed with an affected animal.