Cauda Equina Syndrome
What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?
Also known as degenerative lumbosacral stenosis, cauda equina syndrome is caused by the nerve roots in the lower back being compressed. This causes sharp pains and intermittent lameness in one or both rear legs. As the condition worsens, the dog may be in pain, may chew at his tail, may lose bowel and bladder control, and may develop rear end paralysis.
How does my dog get Cauda Equina Syndrome?
The condition can be caused by arthritic changes in the vertebra, infection, rupture of the vertebral discs, or tumors. In some smaller breeds it is congenital. It is more common in larger athletic dogs of medium to older age.
How do I know if my dog has Cauda Equina Syndrome?
Affected dogs may suddenly jump or yelp, or may limp off and on, in both cases especially following strenuous exercise. As the condition worsens, the dog may whine and limp consistently. He may chew at his tail base and lose control of his bladder or bowel. Muscle wasting may be noted. Your veterinarian will observe your dog's gait, then give him specific tests to evaluate his neurological function. She may carefully press on the pelvis or manipulate the tail, both of which can cause even the most stoic dog to exhibit pain. She will take radiographs to diagnose the cause of the problem, which will determine how treatment should proceed. More advanced tests, such as a myelogram electromyography to evaluate nerve function, myelogram or a epidurogram (contrast dye studies) can determine the location of the problem. CT or MRI scans may be needed in difficult some cases.
What can I do about Cauda Equina Syndrome?
Untreated, cauda equina is progressive, Mild cases may be treated by keeping the dog completely quiet and giving him medicine to combat pain and inflammation. However, medical treatment alone is usually unsatisfactory. Severe or recurring cases are better treated by surgically relieving the pressure on the compressed nerve roots, which usually involves removing or fixing the initial cause of the compression. This relieves the pain, and usually greatly improves the dog's function.
Is there anything I can do to prevent my dog from getting Cauda Equina Syndrome?
There is no prevention.
Are there certain breeds that get Cauda Equina Syndrome more often?
It can occur in any breed, but seems to occur at above average frequency in Border Collies, German Shepherds, Boxers, and Rottweilers.