Cervical Vertebral Malformation

The spinal column in vertebrate animals is the flexible column that is made of vertebrae and extends from neck to tail. The major function of the vertebral column is protection of the spinal cord. It also provides sites of attachment for muscles. The cervical (neck) portion of the spinal column consists of seven vertebrae separated by cartilaginous intervertebral discs that help absorb shock in motion.

Cervical vertebral malformation, also known as cervical spondylomyelopathy, servical spondylopathy, cervical vertebral malformation/malarticulation, cervical vertebral stenotic myelopathy, disk associated cervical spondylomyelopathy (DA-CSM) and canine wobbler syndrome, is a complex health disorder seen in large and giant dog breeds that involves intervertebral discs, ligaments, and bones and is marked by instability in the intervertebral discs in the neck area. In DA-CSM, caudal cervical spinal cord compression is mainly caused by protrusion of one or more intervertebral disks.

Doberman Pinscher

The disease is characterized by malformations in the spinal cord leading to compression of the spinal cord resulting in pain, weakness and instability of four legs. The 'wobbler syndrome' designation arises from the fact that affected animals often have poorly coordinated, wobbling or swaying gait. Most affected dogs have difficulty arising. Disc-associated compressions occur in adult dogs that are born with congenital vertebral canal stenosis. The Doberman pinscher breed seems predisposed for this condition.4 These dogs are prone to spanal cord compressions due to intervertebral disc protrusions. Most cases occur in the Doberman Pinscher (over 5 years of age) and Great Dane (under 2 years of age), but other breeds can also be affected. Ruptured discs are more common in Doberman Pinschers, while vertebral malformations predominate in Great Danes. Males are more commonly affected than females, except in Borzois.6 Unlike most other affected breeds, Dobermans also have rigid front legs. What causes these abnormalities is still uncertain, although genetic, nutritional (oversupplementation with calcium 3), congenital vertebral canal stenosis, and hypertrophy (enlargement) of the ligament that runs down the vertebral canal beneath the vertebrae have been proposed.2.

Treatment can be conservative or surgical. With mild or moderate signs, strict rest, administration of corticosteroids, correction of the diet, and avoidance of microtrauma caused by pulling on the collar may lead to improvement after four weeks of conservative treatment. Although the conservative treatment improves the clinical signs, it cannot be expected to correct the underlying spinal defects, and most dogs eventually develop progressive problems. In severe cases with acute or chronic intervertebral disc protrusion or extrusion, surgery is often used to decrease the compression and the damage of the spinal cord, followed by an extensive rehabilitation after surgery. However, in cases when the spinal cord is severely damaged and the lesions are irreversible, surgical treatment may be unsuccessful and the prognosis is guarded.5


  1. Textbook of Veterinary Diagnostic Radiolog. Donald E. Thrall DVM PhD DACVR
  2. Veterinary Neuropathology: Essentials of Theo… (Hardcover) by Marc Vandevelde, Robert Higgins
  3. Genetics: An Introduction for Dog Breeders. Jackie Isabell
  4. Intervertebral disk width in dogs with and without clinical signs of disk associated cervical spondylomyelopathy
  5. Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook. Debra M. Eldredge, DVM, Liisa D. Carlson, DVM, Delbert G. Carlson, DVM, James M. Giffin, MD
  6. Clinical Endocrinology of Dogs and Cats. Ad Rijnberk, Hans S. Kooistra
  7. The Genetic Connection: A Guide to Health Problems in Purebred Dogs. Lowell J Ackerman
  8. Structural and functional anatomy of the neck musculature of the dog (Canis familiaris)

Home Contact RSS
©2003- GoPetsAmerica.com