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Cervical Stenosis

Cervical stenosis is a condition seen most commonly in large breed dogs, with a particualrly high percentage of cases occurring in Dobermans and Great Danes. It is not seen in cats. Dogs affected with cervical stenosis have a s spinal canal is too small for the spinal cord and nerve roots. This can cause damage to the spinal cord, a condition called myelopathy, or pinch nerves as they exit the spinal canal (radiculopathy). Occasionally, damage to the spinal cord and nerve roots may occur, resulting in a condition called myeloradiculopathy.

Cervical stenosis is most often caused by a number of factors which combine to cause a critical level of spinal cord compression, at which time symptoms may develop. Factors contributing to the development of cervical stenosis include: shorter than average pedicles (the bones which form the sides of the spinal canal), degenerative arthritis causing excessive bone growth, increased in size of the ligamentum flavum (a ligament which runs down the underside of the roof of the spinal canal), and conditions such as ossification (abnormally turning into bone) of the ligament that forms the floor of the spinal canal.

Signs of cervical stenosis are related to abnormal compression of the spinal cord and nerve roots. Neck pain, pain in one or both front legs, and numbness of the front paws are common in the early stages of disease As the condition progresses, weakness and poor coordination can occur in th front legs and paws. Also, in advanced stages of cervical stenosis, problems with bowel and bladder function can result, in addition to weakness and numbness in the rear legs and paws, which can cause difficulty walking – a syndome known as Wobblers Syndrome.

However, it is important to note that cervical stenosis does not always get worse and cause progressive symptoms. Many dogs have mild stenosis and never show clinical signs of disease, or have mild signs which are not bothersome enough to necessitate treatment. Even if signs occur which are severe enough to seek treatment, they can often be controlled with a combination of anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy.

Cervical stenosis is diagnosed by a combination of history, physical examination, and advanced imaging techniques, such as CT scan, MRI, and myelogram. If severe enough, surgery may be necessary. Depending on the exact nature of the disease as determined by advanced imaging, some cases of cervical stenosis respond to a surgical procedure known as a dorsal hemilaminectomy.

symptoms. Many dogs have mild stenosis and never show clinical signs of disease, or have mild signs which are not bothersome enough to necessitate treatment. Even if signs occur which are severe enough to seek treatment, they can often be controlled with a combination of anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy.

Cervical stenosis is diagnosed by a combination of history, physical examination, and advanced imaging techniques, such as CT scan, MRI, and myelogram. If severe enough, surgery may be necessary. Depending on the exact nature of the disease as determined by advanced imaging, some cases of cervical stenosis respond to a surgical procedure known as a dorsal hemilaminectomy.

 

Roger L. Welton, DVM
Founder and Chief Editor, Web-DVM.net
President, Maybeck Animal Hospital

Article updated 9/15/2012