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Cervical Vertebral Instability

Labradors are the pets we turn to when we need a little pick-me-up after a tiring and stressful day. They are this lovable breed that is also highly active that you can’t help but be pulled into their fun and play. But, all this energetic activity can come with certain risks and future possible injuries especially to the Labrador’s spine. One common problem encountered by dogs is cervical vertebral instability, otherwise known as Wobbler’s syndrome.

As part of the vertebrate family, dogs and humans alike have a vertebral column and the spine to support our body in all our motor activities, from lying down to standing up to walking and playing. The spinal cord is composed by a set of interconnected bones that not only support but also protect the inner neural wirings that transmit messages and instructions from the brain to all our body parts. Besides the bones, there are also soft tissues, called intervertebral discs, which function as shock absorbers and facilitate smooth movement of the spine. This soft structure is usually one of the implicated parts in cervical vertebral instability.

Any damages to the spinal cord has threatening and fatal results that could easily go from paralysis to death. If the dog has cervical vertebral instability, there is a compression in the set of bones and disks near the neck or cervical region. The compression leads to abnormal movement from the neck up, hence “wobbler” syndrome. There could be a misalignment of the whole bone structure or there might be abnormalities with the intervertebral discs or with the connecting ligaments. Cervical instability also causes additional pressure to the rest of the spinal column that could lead to a lack of coordination and weakness in your dog’s movements.

Manifestations on your Labrador

It is easy enough to notice if your Labrador suffers from this problem because there would be obvious problems in movement especially in terms of strength and coordination. It might start with your pet not being able to navigate a simple set of stairs or turning around corners. You may also notice a change in the way your Lab walks, more stiff and exaggerated, like it is putting more effort in each step more than usual. The disease may damage the hind legs first then eventually, slowly spread to all four legs.

The condition may progress slowly over several months, with a few unnoticeable mishaps at first, but your dog’s condition will continue to deteriorate as it is a progressive and chronic disease that will worsen with time if there aren’t any interventions or treatment.

Causes of Cervical Vertebral Instability

There aren’t any clear studies that show what truly causes this disease but overfeeding and inheritance in some breeds seem to be the common denominator in most cases. Obesity, especially with the larger breeds of dogs, cause stress on the spinal column, the added weight and the lack of proper nutrition combined could break or compress the vertebrae leading to this condition. As of inheritance, only specific breeds have been found to have a hint of genetic loading to carry this condition. These are the Doberman pinscher, Borzoi and the Great Dane. As the Labrador is a relatively large breed coupled with their energetic personality, they are also at a higher risk of having this problem.

Treatment and care

If you see the symptoms described in your pet, go to the veterinarian immediately where x-rays and a procedure called myelography to determine whether there are any abnormalities with your dog’s bone structure and whether there are any compressions in the spinal column, which ultimately means that your dog is suffering from wobbler’s syndrome.

Depending on the extent and severity of the cervical vertebral instability in your pet, the treatment could range from medical management to surgery. With medical management, your pet will undergo therapy, be put in a neck brace to prevent further damages to the neck, then his or her physical activities will be limited, along with other medication that will help stop the compression and any inflammation. These methods could slow down the progress of the disease for several weeks to even years, but it won’t make the real problem go away.

In a surgical procedure, your dog will still go through medical management to help ease the problem before the operation. There are several factors that have to be accounted for before going into surgery, including your pet’s overall health, whether the damage is localized or spread out on many areas of the spine, and the severity and duration of the condition.

If your dog has this condition, it is best to avoid breeding them and their siblings because they might be carrying this trait to their offspring. These are the sacrifices that you have to take to ensure that your dog will lead a good life. To lessen the damage, be sure to have regular check-ups with your vet.


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