Wobblers Syndrome is a neurological disorder that affects several large breed dogs, but is especially common in Dobermans and Great Danes. The medical term for Wobblers is Cervical Spondylopathy or Cervical Vertebral Instability or CVI. It is caused by a narrowing or malformation of the cervical vertebrae. The exact cause is unknown, but it has been linked to genetics and also to nutrition.
Wobblers Syndrome causes progressively worse pain, limited mobility and in the worse cases it can lead to paralysis.
Symptoms of Wobblers usually appear first in the back legs. The dog will appear to be uncoordinated and could have trouble standing up. It is usually most noticeable when the dog tries to turn a corner as he is walking. The hind legs are spread farther apart than normal and his toes may scuff the ground. As time goes by, the front legs also become weak and may appear stiff. The dog literally wobbles when he walks. An unwillingness to bend the neck is another symptom.
The disease is different in Great Danes and Dobermans, the two breeds most often affected. In Great Danes it occurs early, usually before the puppy is a year old. It is thought to be caused by rapid growth due to improper nutrition or over nutrition, and inappropriate use of supplements. Because the Great Dane is such a large dog, the bones and spine need to develop slowly enough to support its weight.
In Dobermans, the symptoms usually begin when the dog is between 3 and 5 years old. In Dobermans, it is not considered to be related to rapid growth but a slight abnormality in the cervical spine that progressively becomes worse.
Wobblers Syndrome is diagnosed by a complete physical and neurological exam, including x-rays and blood work. To see the specific compression of the vertebrae, a myelogram, an x-ray with dye for contrast, or an MRI is needed. Wobblers Syndrome causes progressively worse pain, limited mobility and in the worse cases it can lead to paralysis.
Treatment for Wobblers Syndrome begins with corticosteroids to decrease inflammation and rest, with decreased physical play. Elevated feeding dishes are helpful in reducing strain on the neck and a neck brace can be used. It is a also a good idea to use a halter for walks rather than a collar.
For more acute or severe cases of Wobblers Syndrome, surgery may be recommended. A veterinary surgeon can do a fusion of the spinal cord, decompression of the cervical vertebrae or even the placement of screws.
For many dogs with Wobblers Syndrome, it is possible to live a long, pain free life. It requires expert management from the vet as well as extra special love and care from the dogs family.
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