Dear Daisy Dog
When my Doberman, Max, became uncoordinated, my veterinarian diagnosed wobbler syndrome, also called cervical vertebral instability. She said Max’s problem developed after the vertebrae in his neck slipped, compressing his spinal cord.
She started him on prednisone to reduce the spinal cord inflammation and recommended I consider surgery, which is expensive. Is surgery necessary?
Surgery can stabilize the cervical (neck) spine and relieve the pressure on Max’s spinal cord, but it carries significant risk as well.
Medical management -– medication, acupuncture, exercise restriction followed by physical rehabilitation, use of a harness instead of a neck collar -– is a viable alternative.
In a recently published review of the medical records of 104 dogs with wobbler syndrome, researchers found that outcomes and survival times were similar, whether the dog was treated surgically or medically.
Before treatment, the disease severity was similar for both groups. Thirty-seven dogs were treated surgically, while 67 received medical therapy.
Owners reported improvement in 76 percent of dogs treated surgically and 71 percent of those treated medically. Average time to maximal improvement was 2.6 months for surgically-treated dogs and 2.7 months for medically-treated dogs.
On average, both groups lived four years after treatment.
Each of us dogs is an individual, so only a veterinarian can advise you about what’s best for Max. A specialist can help you make a decision.