What is Narrowing of Vertebral Canal?
In dogs, the spinal cord consists of 31 vertebrae or backbones, beginning from the head, consisting of 7 cervical (neck) 13 thoracic (chest) 7 lumbar (lower back), and 3 sacrum (pelvis), which ends at the tail. Cauda equina syndrome, or the latin term Horse’s Tail, is the pinching or compressional pressure within the nerve roots of the spinal cord in the lumbar and sacral regions of the spinal vertebrae. This results in the narrowing of the vertebral canal known as lumbosacral stenosis. It is known to be a congenital condition, and can also develop as an acquired condition with advancement of age.
Cauda equina syndrome is a progressive disorder that results in the final and remaining spinal nerve roots within the vertebrae being compressed, and can be a result of many various ailments. Lumbosacral stenosis is defined as the narrowing of the vertebral canal which causes the inhibition of the free passage of the spinal cord and nerves. These two terms are commonly used and very much related to one another, but are often mistaken to be synonymous.
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Symptoms of Narrowing of Vertebral Canal in Dogs
- Mid-back pain
- Lower back pain
- Pain in the hind legs
- Pain in the tail
- Nerve damage
- Restricted movement in affected areas
- Difficulty with balance and standing
- Poor posture
- Weakness or paralysis of the lower limbs and tail
- Struggling to urinate, and/or defecate
Cauda equina syndrome is known to affect dogs genetically susceptible to having disfigurement in their lumbar or sacral vertebrae. It is known to be most often seen in small and mid-range size dogs such as Dachshunds and Beagles, and in larger dogs it is most prevalent in the German Shepherd, Rottweiler, and Boxer breeds.
Causes of Narrowing of Vertebral Canal in Dogs
Lumbosacral stenosis can be a congenital disease, and it can also be acquired and developed later with age. Congenital attributes that are related include connective tissue disorder and bone abnormalities. Causes of this condition can be determined by many circumstances.
- Accidental spinal injury or trauma
- Side effects of certain treatments and medications
- Neoplasia (cancer)
- Scarring of ligaments
This is a condition in where the bone cartilage (soft connective tissue that links joints and bones) degenerates over time. The reason for this is the gelatin like substances which are crucial components of joint fluid have reduced greatly. In addition, dogs at risk have an inability to produce chondroitin, a major component of cartilage that is responsible for retaining water.
Diagnosis of Narrowing of Vertebral Canal in Dogs
A physical examination will be conducted and your veterinarian will test and check reflexes in the hips and hind areas to assess joint mobility and the presemce of pain. Diagnosis is easy to determine with the use of X-rays and dyes. The dyes act as a highlighter within the X-ray, known as epidurography and are accurate in identifying bone displacement, or disfigurement in the lumbosacral joint. Calcified ligaments confirm that lumbosacral stenosis is present. Computed tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can detect the condition of the nerve roots and can also assist with visualization.
Treatment of Narrowing of Vertebral Canal in Dogs
If the condition is mild, bed rest and anti-inflammatory medications will be ordered for up to 6-8 weeks. Surgery is a common procedure of treatment, in which the bones are reconstructed to normalcy as much as possible. A second technique called dorsal laminectomy can also be done to remove part of the intervertebral disc and bones to alleviate the pressure on the nerves within the spinal cord. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements are derived from cow, shark or shellfish cartilage and are extremely popular in treating arthritis and disc disease. Chondroitin is reputed to block enzymes that destroy cartilage and may help retain water and reverse damage.
Recovery of Narrowing of Vertebral Canal in Dogs
The prognosis and outcome of cauda equina syndrome is usually good. Cage rest is recommended and if symptoms are mild, the use of medications is usually a sufficient means of treatment. If surgery is necessary and the condition is severe, surgery may only benefit by alleviating pain, but may not cure the problems of incontinence. The use of a swing has been proven to be a critical tool in rehabilitation, though you may have to assist your dog with sitting, getting up and walking to prevent falls. Your veterinarian will monitor the prognosis of your dog and will provide you with instructions and information for additional rest and/or physical therapy to ensure proper recovery.
Narrowing of Vertebral Canal Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
We adopted our puppy Gracie when she was 3 months old. She has always been sensitive to being held on her back or brushing on her back. Recently she had a sudden demeanor change. She wouldn’t sit down, very restless and wouldn’t eat in a matter of hours. The next day she was whining and wouldn’t let us touch her tummy or back. She would shake when you got near her. We took her to the ER since it was a Sunday thinking she was having gut issues. They took xrays and saw that there was an area in her spine that was narrow. The next morning I took her to our regular vet and he agreee with the diagnosis. He gave her a steroid shot, muscle relaxers and gabapentin. He is thinking that this is an old injury that might’ve flared up with her growing. If she doesn’t get better in 5 days he recommended visiting a neurologist.
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My newly adopted 6-year old beagle has been doing the prayer position alot, has twice held up one of her hind legs, and a couple of times has been unsuccessful in jumping on the couch within the last few weeks (I've had her about 8 weeks). Took her to my vet today and radiograph showed narrowing between two lumbar (I think--don't have written report yet) discs with some inflammation. But no pain response and no neurological deficits. Vet recommends watching it. Just asked him about anti-inflammatories and waiting for response. Not sure if all narrowing is caudal equine syndrome, and don't know if this really requires a more aggressive course of action early on. Also not sure what kind of vet to see if my general practitioner isn't adequate. Thoughts and suggestions?
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My Great Dane has been losing weight and started getting aggressive with our other dog. We got X-rays done and got diagnosed with mild hip dysplasia and degeneration in his spine with some what looked like bulging discs in his thoracic and lumbar area. An option was to get a CT or MRI to assess the area further. Some of his litter mates were put down due to narrowing of their spinal canal leading to too much pain and suffering. Can I assume this is probably what my Dane has as well (narrowing of the spinal canal) causing his disc disease skip the MRI/CT?
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