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Canine Wobbler Syndrome – Origin, Affected Breeds & Symptoms

Canine Wobbler Syndrome is a disease of the cervical spine and spinal cord in the cervical region. “to wobble” means to sway or wobble and thus very clearly describes one of the main symptoms of the disease: coordination disorders. These are due to compression of the spinal cord.

How does Canine Wobbler Syndrome develop?

Wobbler syndrome can have different causes. A common cause is chronic progressive disc disease. In the course of the aging process, the disc material wears out more and more. This results in a change in the shape of the intervertebral discs and also in swelling. This results in a protrusion of the degenerated disc material in the direction of the spinal canal. This causes compression of the spinal cord and disrupts nerve function. The area from the 5th-7th cervical vertebrae is most often affected.

This degeneration process of the intervertebral disc in long-necked dogs is often exacerbated by a change in the shape of the vertebrae. This happens because the vertebrae are unstable. The load on the intervertebral discs is then disproportionately higher. This change in the shape of the vertebrae is probably genetic.

However, a vertebra itself can also cause spinal cord compression and thus wobbler syndrome.

A distinction is made here between static compressions caused by bony growths along the spinal canal in the area of the cervical spine. On the other hand, dynamic subluxation can cause compression. This means that the altered shape of the vertebral body causes instability, which in turn results in dislocations of the vertebrae against each other. Subluxation is caused, or increased, during flexion of the neck. This type of subluxation is usually not painful. The various causes can also occur in combination with each other.

Which dog breeds are often affected?

Young Great Danes and middle-aged Dobermans are particularly frequently affected. In addition, male dogs are affected about twice as often as female dogs. Most often large dog breeds with long necks such as Rhodesian Ridgeback, Borzoi and also Dalmatians, are affected. Canine Wobbler Syndrome

These are the typical symptoms of Wobbler Syndrome

As already described at the beginning, it is above all the fluctuating gait pattern and the more or less severe coordination disorders that are characteristic. This is due to the impairment of the long spinal cord tracts, which means that the transmission of information between the brain and the hindquarters no longer functions optimally.

Step size and height are mostly increased. Affected quadrupeds walk with steps reaching far outward. If the compression of the spinal cord increases, paw dragging also shows up as a typical symptom. In addition, there are often disturbances in proprioception (body perception). In the forehand, the small tippling steps are particularly conspicuous, the so-called soldier step. This results in two different gait patterns front and rear.

In rare cases, complete paralysis may result from acute trauma. The trauma itself is mostly minor in this case. It is the advanced pre-damage of the spinal cord that makes a so-called minor trauma sufficient to cause complete paralysis. In many cases, the dogs show pain in the neck area or pain in the movement of the neck. The head is often carried low. The neck muscles are very tense. Progressive muscular atrophy of the legs occurs.

In the next article, you’ll learn all about the diagnosis and treatment options for Canine Wobbler Syndrome!

All the love, your Tina

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