Wobblers

Cervical spondylomyelopathy or Wobblers syndrome is a condition seen in large breed dogs such as Dobermans and Great Danes. The condition is a result of either malformation of the vertebrae within the cervical spine (neck) or due to dynamic instability between the vertebral bodies. Malformation of the vertebrae usually presents in young individuals and radiographic assessment can often identify the bony deformity, which results in compression and impingement on the spinal cord. CT evaluation of these individuals is superior to X-ray in completely assessing the deformity. In older individuals a dynamic instability often leads to degeneration of the intervertebral discs and subsequent changes associated with the disc and surrounding soft tissues and joints again results in compression and impingement of the spinal cord. Radiographic myelography, CT and MRI are all useful imaging techniques for evaluating these dogs.

Clinical signs are a result of disruption of transmission of information from the brain to the limbs but primarily dogs present with a hind limb weakness and ataxia. This can sometimes be exacerbated by neck position. In severe cases a quadriplegia may be present. As indicated a diagnosis is usually achieved with advanced imaging.

Treatment options vary depending on the severity, location and type of lesion present but may involve removal of the roof of the spinal canal (dorsal laminectomy), removal of the offending intervertebral disc via a ventral slot or use of a distraction fusion technique whereby the disc is removed, the space distracted in order to relieve compression and then fused in the distracted position.

Outcome is very much dependent on the severity of the clinical signs and age and type of lesion present. In general a favourable outcome can be achieved in most cases.