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Cervical Vertebral Instability in Labradors

Cervical Vertebral Instability, which is also known as Wobbler Syndrome, covers a variety of conditions that arise as a result of the presence of lesions in the spinal cord, located at the base of the neck (known as the caudal cervical spine). These lesions serve as a compressive agent on the spinal cord.

Many factors have been linked to predisposing the condition, including nutritional, genetic, and biochemical factors. Other minor causes that can cause this condition include cancer, juvenile orthopedic diseases, diskospondylitis, and inflammatory conditions of the spinal cord.

Wobbler Syndrome is a developmental malformation leading to the malarticulation of the cervical vertebrae (also known as the neck bone). Dogs that suffer from the condition have large, heavy heads. This is an added load on the dog’s neck, which leads to abnormal development of the vertebrae.

The compressive action on the spinal cord can lead to nervous signs that can be seen in the hind legs. These signs include instability, slipping, and scuffing its paws while exercising. The degree of compression on the spinal cord will dictate the severity of signs and duration of the condition.

Most cases of Wobbler Syndrome are acute. The clinical signs include:

•Presence of pain in the neck
•Scuffed paws
•Incoordination as a result of decreased proprioception
•May experience difficulties when rising from a lying or sitting position to a standing position.
•Worn toenails
•May experience varying degrees of muscle atrophy particularly in its forelimbs
•Some cases may be further complicated with Horner’s Syndrome
•Signs may worsen when the dog attempts to flex its neck

There are two recognized forms of Wobbler Syndrome. The first form of the disease has often been observed to affect young dogs. All cervical joints (bones of the neck) may be affected.

The second form of the disease is a result of Type II disk herniation which is accompanied by the hypertrophy of vertebral ligaments due to the instability of the vertebrae.

Since genetics has been recognized as a major contributory factor, dogs which have been diagnosed as suffering from Wobbler’s Syndrome should never be used for breeding.

In order to correctly diagnose the condition, your veterinarian needs to conduct a series of physical and neurological examination to your Boxer in order to pinpoint the location and evaluate the severity of the syndrome. Other tests which can be recommended include a biochemical profile, complete blood tests, urinalysis, cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF) tap and neuro-imaging, x-ray of the cervical region, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

In order to relieve the compressive pressure exerted on the spinal cord, surgical intervention is usually required.

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