Case Studies

"Wobblers" in Large Dogs

Large breed dogs are prone to a problem known colloquially as Wobblers. The clinical descriptions are cervical vertebral instability and cervical spondylolythesis.

Wobbler's disease is commonly seen in older Doberman pinschers and young Great Danes but can also occur in just about any large breed dog. One sign is when the dogs are walking as if they are "drunk," or unusually wobbly. When the rearlimbs are only mildly affected the front limbs may appear normal to the owner eventhough this condition affects the spinal cord in the neck. The owner may complain that the dog seems unsteady or collapses in the rear limbs, especially when making quick or difficult maneuvers. The dog may scuff or drag the nails or even walk on the top of the paws. The signs are usually slowly progressive, but may also become apparent acutely.

Wobblers is a multifaceted disease process characterized by one or more of the following MRI findings: disc bulge, thickened spinal ligaments, rotated vertebrae, or thickening of the joints joining two vertebrae. And there are other diseases that can mimic Wobblers. For example, not every Doberman with walking trouble has Wobblers. The animal may have a spinal tumor, a slipped disc, cysts, or infections.

Traditionally, veterinarians used myelograms (injecting dye around the spinal cord) to diagnose these ailments. However, conducting a myelogram sometimes resulting in making the pets feel worse due to irritation of the spinal cord from the dye. With MRIs, pets do not risk this side effect. The following MRI demonstrates a Doberman pinscher with significant spinal cord compression due to rotation of the vertebral, bulging of the disc and thickening of the spinal ligaments causing a classic Wobblers syndrome.

Cervical vertebral instability – Wobbler. Side view of the neck of a Doberman Pinscher with Wobblers. The arrow is pointing to the lesion at the level of the 5th and 6th cervical vertebrae. The spinal cord (grey tube going from left to right in the picture surrounded by white spinal fluid and fat) is being severely compressed due to the lesion.