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What You Should Know About Cervical Vertebral Instability

Also known as Wobbler Syndrome, Cervical Vertebral Instability covers a variety of conditions that present as a result of lesions in the spinal cord, usually located at the base of the neck (known as the caudal cervical spine). These lesions cause a compressive effect on the spinal cord. And although this condition is more common in other dog breeds, it’s still a condition that Bulldog owners should be informed about – you never know if it could inflict your precious bully.

Factors attributed to predisposing the condition include nutritional, genetic, and biochemical factors. Other causes include cancer, diskospondylitis, juvenile orthopedic diseases and inflammatory conditions of the spinal cord.

Cervical Vertebral Instability is a developmental malformation that leads to the malarticulation of the cervical vertebrae (the neck bone). Most dogs suffering from the condition have large, heavy heads that tend to cause an addition load on its neck, which leads to the abnormal development of their vertebrae.

Because the spinal cord is compressed, it leads to nervous signs, particularly in the hind legs. You’ll notice signs including instability, slipping, and scuffing its paws. The amount of compression on the spinal cord dictates the severity of signs and duration of the condition.

Most cases of Cervical Vertebral Instability are acute and the clinical signs include:

•Pain in the neck

•Scuffed paws


•Difficulties rising from a lying or sitting position to a standing position.

•Worn toenails

•Varying degrees of muscle atrophy particularly in its forelimbs

•May be further complicated with Horner’s Syndrome

•Signs may worsen when the dog tries to flex its neck

There are two recognized forms of Wobbler Syndrome. The first form of the disease affects 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, 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 Cervical Vertebral Instability 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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