Cauda Equina Syndrome in dogs

Cauda Equina Syndrome in dogs

What is Cauda Equina Syndrome (Lumbosacral Stenosis)?

Cauda Equina Syndrome is a term used to describe arthritis of the joint between the last lumbar vertebra and the sacrum. (The sacrum is one of the pelvic bones.) In a dog affected by Cauda Equina Syndrome, the canal through which the spinal cord and nerves pass will be narrower than normal, and it is also common for the intervertebral disc to be abnormal too, which makes the canal even narrower. The nerves from the spinal cord will be subjected to intense pressure, which leads to nerve damage in the dog.

Cauda Equina Syndrome is known under a wide range of name, including lumbosacral stenosis, lumbar spinal stenosis, lumbosacral nerve root compression, lumbosacral instability, lumbosacral malarticulation, lumbosacral spondylolisthesis, and lumbosacral malformation.

Large dog breeds, including German Shepherd dogs, are more prone to
Cauda Equina Syndrome compared to small and medium sized dogs.
Cauda Equina Syndrome can be both congenital (present at birth) or acquired. In both situations, symptoms are uncommon in dogs younger than 3-7 years of age.

Symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome in dogs

Pain is the most common symptom of Cauda Equina Syndrome in dogs, especially in the back, the tail and in one or both hind legs. Your dog might have troubles rising up again after resting, but will seldom show any signs of stiffness once it is up and walking. A shuffling gait is however common and some dogs will scuff their toes.

In some dogs, the pain will make it hard to urinate, while other dogs with Cauda Equina Syndrome become incontinent.  Muscle loss can occur in one or both hind legs of the dog.
Some dog with Cauda Equina Syndrome will no longer move the tail, or show signs of serious pain each time they move the tail. Cauda Equina Syndrome can make a dog chew on its tail, hind limbs and pelvic area, and this can lead to severe self-mutilation.

Quite a lot of the symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome in dogs are easily confused with hip dysplasia and you must let a qualified veterinarian determine the exact diagnosis.

Cauda Equina Syndrome treatment for dogs

The exact treatment for Cauda Equina Syndrome in your dog will depend on how serious the problem is, how much pain your dog is in, the general health status of your dog, and how much time and money you are capable of spending. Cauda Equina Syndrome can be treated both surgically and medically.

Medical treatment of Cauda Equina Syndrome in a dog
In dogs suffering from mild Cauda Equina Syndrome, anti-inflammatory medications such as Prednisolone can be administered to relieve the symptoms. Medical treatment should normally be combined with strict rest for at least 6-8 weeks, which means that you have to spend a lot of time caring for your dog. In many cases, the symptoms will however return as soon as the dog starts to be active again.

Surgical treatment of Cauda Equina Syndrome in a dog
Currently, there are two different surgical treatments available for dogs with Cauda Equina Syndrome. The first technique involves removing a part of the bone and the intervertebral disc in order to decrease the pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves. The other option is to fuse the bones together, while aiming to make the position as normal as possible. This will decrease the risk for further arthritis by preventing abnormal motion between the bones.

If your dog undergoes surgery to treat its Cauda Equina Syndrome, it must stay confined for 2-4 weeks post-surgery. The vet can also recommend Prednisolone to reduce inflammation. If your dog is unable to urinate, the bladder must be emptied manually several times per day.

The prognosis is not good for dogs who are unable to urinate or incontinent before they receive treatment, since this is a sign of severe and long gone Equina Syndrome. In milder cases of Equina Syndrome, the prognosis is fairly good if the dog receives prompt treatment.

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