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Wobbler Syndrome – Diagnosis, treatment options, prognosis & what you should watch out for as an owner.

In the last article, you already learned what wobbler syndrome is in dogs, which breeds are frequently affected and what the typical symptoms are. In this article, you’ll learn how Canine Wobbler Syndrome is diagnosed, what treatment options are available, what the prognosis is, and what you should be aware of as a dog owner.

The diagnosis

As a rule, X-rays are not sufficient. This can be used to visualize anomalies of the vertebrae. But most often, however, a CT scan, myelography or, in the best case, MRI is chosen for diagnosis. Especially preoperatively, this is also indispensable to determine the exact cause, extent and localization of the injury.

The treatment options for canine wobbler syndrome.

Surgical treatment is generally recommended in the literature. However, the choice of treatment is also fundamentally dependent on factors such as age, health status, type and duration of compression, and severity of symptoms. For pain patients, conservative therapy can be attempted using strict immobilization, analgesics, and the use of corticosteroid steroids. However, relapses often occur because the underlying cause that triggers the compression has not been eliminated.

What is achieved with surgery and what methods are available?

By means of surgery, decompression of the spinal cord should be achieved and further microtrauma to the spinal cord prevented. Common surgical methods include the ventral slot, in which a relief access is made from the lower side of the neck in the area of the affected vertebral segment. This includes adjacent vertebrae and the affected disc material. In addition, there are laminectomy and hemilaminectomy. These two methods can also be used in combination. This method is used for static compressions caused by bony growths.

Furthermore, there is the traction stabilization technique. Here, the affected vertebrae are pulled apart and part of the disc is removed. A so-called spacer is then inserted into the intervertebral space. In addition, plates and screws are used for stabilization. This method of surgery is used in cases of dynamic protrusion of the intervertebral disc, which decreases in extension of the spine or in traction.

What is the prognosis and can Wobbler syndrome recur?

Wobbler syndrome is a complex clinical picture. Basically, each patient must be considered individually. The prognosis depends, among other things, on how severe and long the compression was present and how pronounced the symptoms were. This means that the longer the compression and the more severe the symptoms were before surgery, the worse the prognosis. The age of the dog also plays a role.

Since the forces acting on the cervical spine when running, braking and moving the neck are now borne by the surrounding intervertebral discs, there is an increased load there. This can result in signs of wear. As a result, herniated discs may occur next to the operated area.

What should you keep in mind as a dog owner after surgery?

Immobilization is the top priority after cervical spine surgery. If too much movement causes implants to break out, for example, this usually cannot be operated on again. Any form of rapid, jerky movements must be avoided. The dog should be turned several times a day to avoid pressure sores. The use of a collar should be avoided at all costs and the dog should be led on a chest harness.

Physiotherapy for a wobbler syndrome

Postoperatively, the dog should be passively moved several times a day to avoid muscle atrophy, shortening of muscles, tendons and ligaments, as well as rusting of the joints and consequently osteoarthritis. Several times a day the dog should be put up and walk a few, few steps with support. Stress on the cervical spine should be avoided. Massages to release muscular tension in the overstressed structures is also important. Heat therapy can also be used here as an adjunct. These measures should be intensively accompanied and trained by a therapist. In the course of therapy, training in the underwater treadmill can be started according to the patient’s health condition. Swimming is contraindicated, as it causes severe stretching of the neck. In addition, the therapist can also use forms of therapy, such as laser therapy, ultrasound, magnetic field or electrotherapy. When choosing the type of therapy, it is essential to consider possible contraindications with regard to implants. In order to promote a physiological gait pattern, active movement training should also be an unconditional part of the treatment and a comprehensive homework program of exercises should be provided. This is not only to promote healthy movements, but also the musculature and coordination and body awareness.

Even though Canine Wobbler Syndrome is an intense time for both dog and owner in its treatment and recovery, one should not give up prematurely. Many dogs have the chance to recover well and live symptom-free.

All the love, your Tina

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