Wobbler syndrome (cervical vertebral malformation malarticulation syndrome) is a congenital disease of dogs characterized by malformation and upward tilting of a cervical vertebral body, often C4 - C7.
A breed predisposition is seen in Doberman, great Dane and Borzoi breeds. Although the cause of this condition is not entirely known, genetics and nutrition may play a role in the development of the defect. In some young dogs, excessive intake of a diet high in protein, energy, calcium, and phosphorus accelerates growth and may induce skeletal changes such as those seen in 'wobbler' dogs.
Clinically affected dogs present with characteristic ataxia, hemiparesis of the hindlimbs and a stumbling gait, with normal sensory reflexes, which may progress to hindlimb paralysis.
Diagnosis usually requires cervical myelography or MRI imaging studies. Degenerative changes affecting the articular process joints are a frequent finding in these patients. Features of this condition include cervical articular process joint degeneration, spinal cord compression, vertebral foraminal stenosis, intramedullary spinal cord changes and intervertebral disc degenerative changes. Motor evoked potentials also reveal reduced cranial tibial muscle latency and amplitude in wobbler dogs.
Conservative treatment of disc-associated wobbler syndrome (e.g. long-term prednisolone therapy) is associated with a guarded prognosis and should only be considered in cases where all four limbs are not affected and no additional radiographic and/or myelographic abnormalities are detected. However, other studies have shown that there is little difference between medical or surgical treatments in terms of outcomes in the long-term.
Surgery requires hemilaminectomy to alleviate spinal cord compression with or without stabilizing cervical surgery such as vertebral plating or distractable K-wire spacers or vertebral titanium cage.
Prognosis depends on the severity of clinical signs and the degree of skeletal disease present, with mean survival times in both medically and surgically treated groups averaging 36 - 48 months before necessitating euthanasia
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