Wobbler syndrome: the basics

Wobblers syndrome

Wobblers syndrome, also known as cervical vertebral malformation (CVM) and cervical spondylomyelopathy (CSM), is commonly seen among dogs. It is a condition of the cervical vertebrae in which the vertebrae are affected, causing the dog to develop a walk that is both wobbly and unsteady, hence the name Wobblers syndrome. In reality, this is a situation where there are several factors that contribute to creating a condition. These include disease of the major areas of the vertebrae, such as the interspinal ligaments and intervertebral discs. It is found particularly among Great Danes and Doberman Pinschers.

Causes of Wobblers syndrome

Quoting the Merck Manual, “The cause of wobbler syndrome is unknown, although rapid growth rates and nutrition, mechanical factors, and genetics may be involved.” Others say that the cause of Wobblers syndrome in most dogs is partly genetic and as a result of a malformed vertebra located in the neck region. This occurs mainly in the spinal canal, which is what houses the spinal cord that encloses it and protects it from any damage. Normally, the spinal canal has a relatively large opening. However, when a dog becomes infected with Wobblers syndrome, the opening contracts, causing pressure on the spinal cord to increase. This then prevents the spinal cord from passing through and receiving impulses. This shrinkage of the carcass continues as the animal increases in size, weight and age. Also during this period, there is a noticeable apparent instability in the vertebrae of the neck.

Signs and symptoms

Wobblers syndrome becomes evident at less than forty-eight months (four years) of age. In dogs like Great Danes, it becomes more apparent at a younger age. It takes a long time to show up in Doberman Pinschers. One of the initial signs that a dog might be suffering from wobbler syndrome is the dog’s inability to bend its neck due to the pain it is likely to feel. The following is an apparent lack of muscle coordination and general weakness in the dog’s hind limbs. This is closely followed by a gradual weakness of the front extremities as well.

Precautionary measures

Based on many experiments, it is possible that most dogs that end up with Wobblers syndrome have a genetic predisposition to suffer from it. Therefore, it is advisable that you consider having the lineage of the dogs you plan to breed tested for any signs of Wobblers syndrome. Others recommend that if weight gain and growth rate are slowed by reducing the amount of non-quality high protein nutrition, dogs could survive and grow normally even if they had a genetic predisposition to it.

Corrective measures

There are surgical procedures that can be performed to lessen the symptoms of Wobblers or even eliminate them entirely. One such procedure is the surgical implantation of gold pearls in the spinal area.

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