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Narrowing of Vertebral Canal in Dogs

Lumbosacral Stenosis and Cauda Equina Syndrome in Dogs

Lumbosacral Stenosis and Cauda Equina Syndrome are prevalent conditions in dogs, affecting their spinal canal. The spine of a dog comprises multiple bones with discs nestled between adjacent vertebrae. There are seven cervical vertebrae (C1-C7) in the neck, followed by 13 thoracic vertebrae (T1-T13) extending to the ribs’ end, and seven lumbar vertebrae (L1-L7) from the ribcage’s conclusion to the pelvis. Additionally, there are sacral and coccygeal (tail) vertebrae.

Cauda Equina Syndrome occurs due to the constriction of the vertebral canal, leading to the compression of spinal nerve roots within the lumbar and sacral regions. The nerves within the spinal canal, particularly in the junction between the lumbar and sacral vertebrae known as the cauda equina, undergo pressure or damage due to the narrowing of the spinal canal, resulting in this syndrome. This condition is prevalent among dogs, manifesting as either congenital (present at birth) in small to medium-sized breeds or acquired later in life, especially common among German shepherds, boxers, and rottweilers.

Symptoms and Types

  • Lameness
  • Pain in the lumbar and sacral regions
  • Weakness and muscle wasting in the pelvic limbs
  • Weakness or paralysis of the tail
  • Abnormal tail carriage
  • Urine and fecal incontinence (observed in some animals)

Causes

Cauda equina syndrome can arise either congenitally or as an acquired condition. It occurs due to the instability of the lumbosacral junction or the protrusion of a disk between adjacent vertebrae.

Diagnosis

To diagnose cauda equina syndrome in your dog, provide your veterinarian with a comprehensive history of your dog’s health, detailing the onset and characteristics of the symptoms. Following this, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination, as well as perform a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and complete blood count. Typically, these tests yield results within the normal range unless there is another concurrent illness present.

Radiographic studies can offer valuable diagnostic insights. However, for a definitive diagnosis, your veterinarian may recommend Computed Tomography (CT-Scan) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) testing for your pet.

Treatment

Dogs experiencing urination issues may require hospitalization for initial treatment, such as bladder catheterization, until bladder function is regained. Decompressive surgery is the preferred treatment method and is often performed to alleviate pressure on the nerve roots. Without treatment, symptoms can worsen due to the progressive nature of the disease.

Following surgery, some neurological deficits may persist. Movement should be restricted for a minimum of four weeks post-surgery. In cases where surgery is not performed, confinement and restricted leash walks are recommended, along with the administration of pain control medications.

Living and Management

Avoid strenuous exercise for your dog, such as jumping or running, as it can increase pressure on the spine and potentially trigger symptom recurrence. Monitor your dog closely for signs of pain, lameness, or issues with urination and/or fecal elimination. If you notice any concerning symptoms, promptly inform your veterinarian.

Your dog’s veterinarian may recommend dietary modifications to prevent obesity, which could exacerbate the condition. Adhere closely to the guidelines provided by your dog’s veterinarian, particularly regarding exercise, rest, and dietary recommendations.

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