Youtube Play

What is Spina Bifida?

The vertebrae of the spinal column typically surround and protect the spinal cord. In spina bifida, something goes wrong with the fusion of vertebral arches when embryonic development is occurring, causing the vertebrae to be incomplete. While spina bifida is most often seen in the lower back, it can take place anywhere in your dog’s spinal column. The breed most commonly impacted by spina bifida are English Bulldogs; however’ the disease has occurred in a variety of dog breeds.

Spina bifida is a rare congenital abnormality in the vertebrae of the spinal column. The defect may be minor or significant depending on how many of the dog’s vertebrae are impacted.

Spina Bifida Average Cost

From 450 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $8,500

Average Cost

$4,500

Symptoms of Spina Bifida in Dogs

Symptoms in dogs with spina bifida range from no visible signs to significant issues. Should the defect be minor, the anomaly may never be noticed unless there is an x-ray done on your dog. In more severe cases where the spinal cord is affected, you may see the following signs:

  • Weakness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Paralysis
  • Inability to control fecal and urine elimination
  • Skin may be dimpled at the location where the defect is present

When there is a significant defect, the spinal cord may be exposed and the defect noticed at birth. If the spinal cord is not exposed, in severe cases the fact that there is a problem is typically clear as your puppy begins to walk.

Types 

There are a range of possible abnormalities that can occur with spina bifida. In a case where there is only nonfusion of a small part of one or several vertebrae, your dog will have no medical problems. On the opposite end of the continuum, a majority of the vertebral arch could be missing on several vertebrae along with the spinal cord and/or its lining protruding. In the more severe cases, issues will occur as a result of the part of the spinal cord that is impacted.

There are three sub classifications of spina bifida: spina bifida manifesta, cystica and aperta. These point to there being a protrusion of the spinal cord membranes (meningocele cyst), a protrusion of the spinal cord itself (myelocele), or a protrusion of the spinal cord and its membranes (meningomyelocele).

arrow-up-icon

Top

Causes of Spina Bifida in Dogs

Spina bifida is a congenital condition. If during fetal development the vertebrae don’t completely grow around the spinal cord, a part of the spinal cord is exposed, known as spina bifida. While it is thought that spina bifida is an inherited condition, how this occurs has not been identified. Environmental factors also play a role in the occurrence of spina bifida, for example, there being nutritional deficiencies during the pregnancy, maternal stress, as well as exposure to toxins.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Diagnosis of Spina Bifida in Dogs

Severe cases of spina bifida in dogs are typically noticed either at birth or at the time which the young puppy starts to walk. Once your puppy is starting to walk, should he have more than a mild form of spina bifida it will be evident that something is wrong and that a trip to the veterinarian is necessary.  Upon taking your dog to the veterinarian, he may be able to recognize the condition when conducting a physical examination. The veterinarian can then confirm the diagnosis with an x-ray, myelograms or radiographs using dye. The veterinarian may also recommend a CT scan. Should your dog have mild defects, they may only be noticed by accident when an x-ray of the area is performed for another reason.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Treatment of Spina Bifida in Dogs

Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment available for dogs with malformations of their spinal cord. For dogs in which the abnormality is discovered accidently, no treatment is usually necessary. If your dog is mildly impacted by the abnormality, reconstructive surgery may be discussed as small repairs may be able to be made that will improve your dog’s condition. Should your dog have a severe case of spina bifida, your veterinarian will likely recommend euthanasia.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Recovery of Spina Bifida in Dogs

How you can best help your dog will depend on the severity of his condition. Should the impact on his spine be minimal, there will be little to no need for follow up with the veterinarian for the condition or for any changes in your dog’s environment or activity. In more severe cases, your doctor may request regular follow up appointments to assess how your dog is doing, as well as offer suggestions on how to help him be more comfortable at home. Should your dog undergo surgery, your veterinarian will provide instructions on how to best assist your dog as he recovers. The length of his recovery will depend upon the extent of his surgery.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Spina Bifida Average Cost

From 450 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $8,500

Average Cost

$4,500

arrow-up-icon

Top

Spina Bifida Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Pit Bull

dog-age-icon

One Week

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

thumbs-up-icon

4 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Wound

Open would on back. I'm thinking spina bifida but I don't know. I have a picture

July 11, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Sara O. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

4 Recommendations

Hello, If this wound has been there his whole life this may be the cause. It would be best if your vet looked at this puppy. Most of these dogs do not live very long. So sorry to hear about your puppy.

July 11, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Finley

dog-breed-icon

English Bulldog

dog-age-icon

7 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

what is the best way to handled spina bifida i have used diapers and now she is getting to big for them. do you have any suggestions. she is 7 months old i have her trained to use a potty chair but she is getting to big for that also.I really need some suggestions.

April 29, 2018

Finley's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Spina bifida varies in severity between cases from mild to severe; I don’t like the use of diapers because the skin can become irritated with faeces and urine as well as opening them to infections of the urinary tract, reproductive tract and skin. You need to find what works for your situation, I cannot think of anything that would help with the urination and defecation. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

April 29, 2018

Was this experience helpful?

Spina Bifida Average Cost

From 450 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $8,500

Average Cost

$4,500

Need pet insurance?
Need pet insurance?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews

Install


© 2022 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.


© 2022 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.