What is Cervical Ventral Slot?

When a dog experiences a slipped, ruptured, or herniated disc, damage from the displaced disc can result in injury to the spinal cord. This causes the hind legs to be weakened, sometimes to the point of paralysis. The disc compresses the root of the nerve, which is excruciatingly painful for the animal. Instances of lameness may be ongoing or may occur seemingly out of nowhere.

The deterioration of a disc can be the result of genetic issues or can develop from the regular aging process. To treat this issue, often surgery is needed to remove all damaged materials causing the pain. This procedure is called a cervical ventral slot surgery. In this operation, the spinal cord is drilled open and the deteriorated disc is taken out. This surgery may be paired with other treatments or procedures. It should only be performed by an ACVS board-certified veterinary surgeon.

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Cervical Ventral Slot Procedure in Dogs

A full neurological examination is needed to locate the exact area of damage in the spine. Diagnostic imaging is then used to reveal the extent of damage and help plan for surgery. CT scans and MRIs are often used, but myelograms have also been found to be effective. Full blood work must be run on the dog to assess its overall health condition. This will help determine if the dog is fit for general anesthesia use. 

Prior to surgery, the dog will need to fast for several hours. An IV will be administered and the dog will lose consciousness. Before the operation can begin, the underside of the neck will need to be clipped and sterilized. An incision can then be made. A surgical drill is used to create an opening in the spinal column. Through this hole, the damaged disc will be removed. Care must be taken to ensure that the hole is not too big, as this can lead to instability issues in the dog. Once all material has been removed, the incision may be closed using sutures.

Efficacy of Cervical Ventral Slot in Dogs

If surgical treatment is suggested, ventral slot surgery is often the first procedure that is attempted. Approximately 90% of these surgeries result in no complications to the animal. The procedure carries a very low morbidly rate. If ventral slot surgery fails, or cannot be performed due to location of the damage, a laminectomy is the next recommendation. In very mild cases of disc herniation, medical treatment with muscle relaxers or oral steroids may be attempted. This often fails due to re-injury from heightened activity.

Cervical Ventral Slot Recovery in Dogs

The dog should be monitored very closely in the days following the surgery. A catheter may be needed to relieve the bladder during this time. Pain medication should begin as soon as the dog regains consciousness. Antibiotics will also be prescribed post-surgery. Hospitalization is often required from three to ten days after the procedure is completed. 

Once the dog is discharged, all activity must be restricted for up to six weeks. Confining the animal to a crate is very effective, if possible. If the dog begins to vomit, have diarrhea, or has no interest in food, report the occurrence to your vet immediately. It takes approximately two weeks for the incision on the neck to heal. Physiotherapy should be started as soon as possible to help strengthen the dog's muscles. A sling may be needed to help ease mobility in the first few weeks. Once walks resume, a harness should be used instead of a regular collar.

Cost of Cervical Ventral Slot in Dogs

Surgery of the spine is complex and often requires a specialist. The price for this procedure generally ranges from $3,000 to $7,000 depending on what type of diagnostic imaging is used. MRIs and CT scans are very expensive, while myelograms or much more affordable and often provide enough information to perform the operation. Approximately 10% of all ventral slot surgeries result in the need for secondary surgeries. This can almost double the overall cost of treating the animal.

Dog Cervical Ventral Slot Considerations

The use of general anesthesia always comes with rare but serious risks. The majority of dogs that undergo this procedure do survive, but about 3% experience mild complications and up to 6% have major issues from the surgery. Some dogs are left with neurological deterioration or severe pain. Hemorrhage during the operation is a possibility. If any of these symptoms occur, further neurological surgery may be needed. It is of the utmost importance that a surgeon with prior ventral slot experience is used if possible.

Cervical Ventral Slot Prevention in Dogs

Dog breeds that carry a genetic deformity of the legs that causes them to be angled and shorter in height (called chondrodystrophy) experience disc deterioration much earlier than other breeds. Obtain the dog's family health history when purchasing the animal. Watch its movement closely during the first year to spot the first signs of disc herniation. Do not breed dogs that present with early intervertebral disc disease. 

For aged dogs, preventing certain movements can help a weakened disc to heal. Keep the dog from jumping up onto furniture or other objects. Do not allow the dog to go up or down stairs if possible. Regular exercise that is not excessive has also been proven to help keep a dog's spine healthy. Dogs who are of appropriate weight experience less disc problems than overweight ones. Provide a high-quality and healthy diet for your animal.