Congenital vertebral anomalies in dogs

Congenital vertebral anomalies in dogs

Congenital vertebral anomalies is the medical term for spine problems that exist when the puppy is born. A congenital defect or abnormality is a trait that the puppy is born with, i.e. a condition that exists at birth. A lot of congenital defects are hereditary and caused by genetic factors, but they can also be the result of something that happened while the puppy was still in its mother’s womb. A pregnant bitch that is or becomes infected with certain viral infections, including herpes, can for instance give birth to puppies with congenital defects. Environmental factors such as poisoning or malnutrition can also result in congenital defects.

The term vertebral is used to describe something that pertains to a vertebra, which is one of a chain of bones that make up the spine of the dog. The plural form is vertebrae. A congenital vertebral anomaly therefore an anomaly found in the spine of the dog.

Last but not least, an anomaly is a deviation from the normal or common order of something. An anomaly doesn’t necessarily have to be a defect; it is simply something that deviates from the norm. An anomaly in the spine will however often cause problem for the dog, since the anomaly can make it impossible for the spine to function exactly as it should. A spine anomaly can for instance lead to compression of the spinal cord by deforming the vertebral canal or by causing the spine to become instable. In some dogs, the number of vertebrae is not correct, while other dogs suffer from misshaped vertebra or vertebrae.

A lot of different congenital vertebral anomalies have been observed in dogs. A few examples of the most common ones are Hemivertebrae, Butterfly vertebrae, Block vertebrae, and Transitional vertebrae.

Hemivertebrae in dogs

Hemivertebrae is a problem believed to be caused by a lack of blood supply which makes it impossible for the vertebrae to form as it should. A part of the vertebrae will not form, and the result will be wedge shaped vertebrae which can lead to an angle in the spine of the dog. Among the many identified congenital vertebral anomalies, hemivertebrae is the one most likely to cause neurological problems for the dog. The most common place in the body for this problem to occur is the tail of the dog, and when this happens the dog will get a screw shaped tail.

Some dog breeds are more likely to develop hemivertebrae than others, including Pugs, Boston Terriers, and both French and English Bulldogs. Sometimes young Bulldog puppies die as a result of hemivertebrae.

Butterfly vertebrae in dogs

In normal dogs, the notochord subsides during vertebrae development and only remains as the centre of the invertebral disk. In a dog with butterfly vertebrae, the notochord does not subside as it should. The result looks like a butterfly when it appears on an x-ray, hence the name Butterfly vertebrae. This anomaly rarely leads to any symptoms.

Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pugs are more likely to be born with Butterfly vertebrae compared to other dog breeds.

Block vertebrae in dogs

Block vertebrae is a condition where the segmentation of the vertebrae is not as it should. Parts of the vertebrae, or the entire vertebrae, are fused together, and this can lead to an angel in the spine of the dog. In most dogs, block vertebrae causes no symptoms.

Skeletal and muscular disorders in dogs: (click for more info)
Canine hip dysplasia
Congenital vertebral anomalies in dogs
Craniomandibular osteopathy in dogs
Elbow dysplasia in dogs
Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy in dogs
Hypertrophic Osteopathy in dogs
Legg-Calvé-Perthes syndrome in dogs
Luxating patella in dogs
Masticatory muscle myositis in dogs
Masticatory Muscle Myositis (MMM) and Extraocular Myositis (EOM) in dogs
Osteoarthritis in dogs
Osteochondritis Dissecans in dogs
Panosteitis in dogs
Spondylosis in dogs