Cervical Spine

Cervical Spine

     Cervical (neck) problems are a common reason for owners to seek professional help for their pets. This issue plagues animals of all sizes but especially small to medium size dogs.

  • There are seven cervical vertebral bodies in the neck, but only 6 intervertebral disc (C1-C2 does not have a disc).
  • Neck pain can vary from slightly clinical (mild) to 4 limb paralysis (severe).
  • There are several issues that can cause neck pain in a patient, including trauma, infectious disease, congenital abnormalities, or disc disease.
  • The most common condition seen clinically is intervertebral disc disease.
  • The clinical symptoms associated with this condition are caused by compression of the spinal cord from a ruptured disc. The disc material, in most cases, should be removed surgically.
  • The procedure itself has a good prognosis for return of function, as long as surgery is performed before severe clinical symptoms develop.
  • Not all cervical neck pain warrants surgical intervention and are treated medically.
  • The key to any successful treatment, however, is correct and timely diagnosis.
  • The quicker a disc rupture can be identified and a confirmatory diagnosis made, the better the outcome will be for the animal.

Symptoms of a Cervical Neck Problem:

  1. Animal is reluctant to run, jump, or play normally, usually with a sudden onset of symptoms.
  2. Animal is holding one front limb up off the ground (root signature) and holding neck in a still position.
  3. Pain is elicited when animal tries to move neck or when neck is touched.
  4. Animal has twitching or jerking in the neck when moving.
  5. Stumbling or knuckling over in the front limbs.
  6. All four limbs are paralyzed.
  7. Animal wants to look up at you with their eyes without moving neck.
  8. Animal seems uncoordinated in the rear limb (esp large dogs – Wobblers Syndrome)