Understanding Wobblers Disease In Dogs

Information About Wobblers Syndrome - For Dogs Sake

Wobbler Syndrome is a medical condition that affects the spine and neck of a dog due to spinal compression. This compression is usually found in the vertebrae at the base of the spine. The spinal strain is either caused by a vertebral malformation or by trauma or disc rupture. As the spinal compression worsens, the spinal cord is weakened and the nerve impulses can no longer be processed properly. That contributes to the uncoordinated movement of the wobbles.

Which Breeds Are At The Risk Of Getting Wobblers Disease?

Great Danes and Doberman Pinchers are most often affected, but any huge or giant size dog may exhibit symptoms of this neurological condition. The age of onset varies by breed: the Great Danes are usually affected when young, while the Doberman Pinschers are usually middle-aged or older when they first exhibit clinical symptoms.

If you have a huge or giant breed dog, be on the watch for hind-end deficiency and call the veterinarian straight away if you suspect it.

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What Clinical Signs Do Affected Dogs Show?

The gradual development of paralysis and the uncoordinated or wobbly gait, particularly in the hind legs. A broad-based posture is most frequently seen on the back legs. Often milder symptoms can also be found in the front legs, such as a tense leg gait or suffocation of the front toe nails.

Slow gradual worsening is normal, but often a traumatic episode induces an acute exacerbation of the symptoms. Resistance and discomfort to the upside of the neck are also seen.


The uncoordinated gait is due to the strain of the thickened ligaments on the spinal cord. The instability between the vertebrae places more abnormal tension on the discs between the unstable vertebrae. Disks can gradually rupture, resulting in high pressure on the overlying spinal cord, which in turn leads to paralysis of either the front legs or all four legs.

How is Wobblers Disease Diagnosed?

Plain X-rays of the cervical spine may display irregular development of the bones in the neck indicative of cervical stenotic myelopathy. Advanced visualization, such as myelogram/CT or MRI, is necessary to image the spinal cord and to characterize the degree of compression of the spinal cord. In certain cases, flexed and stretched views of the neck are used to assess if the degree of compression of the spinal cord worsens when the neck is flexed. It is normal for dogs with cervical stenotic myelopathy to have spinal cord compression over several vertebrae in their necks.

How is Wobblers Disease Treated?

When a dog with wobbler syndrome will be treated medically rather than surgically, they are normally treated on an outpatient basis. Conservative, non-surgical therapy consists of treating pain and restraining movement for several months. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) are usually used to minimize inflammation of the infected tissues and to reduce the burden on the spinal cord and the spinal nerve roots.

Non-ambulatory dogs are placed on soft bedding and rotated periodically to prevent “bed sores” from arising. Their bladders and intestines must be drained manually on a daily basis. Physiotherapy can help to preserve muscle mass and speed up recovery.

Surgical treatment of wobbler syndrome includes the fusion of unstable portions of the cervical spine. During initial healing, surgical patients will stay in the veterinary hospital. The movement limitation after surgery must be complete and continuous for at least 2-3 months following the operation in order to promote the fusion of the cervical segments involved.

David Lockhart