Cervical Disk Disease in Pets
Cervical disk disease is a condition in which one of the disks between the vertebrae in your pet’s neck becomes damaged and ruptures. First, this rupture occurs when the jelly-like inner part of the disk pushes through the fibrous outer layer. Consequently, this compresses the spinal cord, causing pain or difficulty walking in all four limbs. While any dog can be affected, it is most common in Dachshunds, Beagles, French Bulldogs, and Poodles.
Cervical disk disease is similar to thoracolumbar (back) IVDD, except it occurs only in the cervical spine (neck). In order to properly diagnose cervical disk disease in your pet, they'll need to see one of our neurology specialists for a detailed neurological exam.
We're South Florida's leader in veterinary neurology. If your pet is experiencing neck pain, our team can help.
Signs of Cervical Disk Disease in Pets
While neck pain is the most common symptom associated with problems in the spinal cord of the neck, we also see these signs:
- Walking slowly/gingerly
- Crying spontaneously from pain
- Holding the head low
- Neck muscle spasms
- Weakness/wobbliness in all four legs
- Buckling of the legs and stumbling
Other Conditions that Can Resemble Cervical Disk Disease
In addition to cervical disk disease, other conditions that cause neck pain include:
- Atlantoaxial (AA) instability
- Syringomyelia (SM)
- “Wobbler’s” disease
There are many different conditions that can potentially be the cause of your pet's neck pain. Therefore, we will need to perform some diagnostic tests to correctly identify your pet’s condition.
How We Diagnose Cervical Disk Disease
- First, a complete blood count (CBC) and chemistry panel (lab work) are needed to evaluate your pet’s health.
- Second, high-field MRI is the best imaging tool for viewing your pet’s nervous system and detecting a slipped or ruptured disk, as well as other causes of neck pain.
- Lastly, our team might suggest a CSF analysis (spinal tap).
Treatment of Cervical Disk Disease
There are two basic ways to treat a dog with a slipped disk in the neck. The course we recommend depends on how serious the symptoms are, how long they have been going on, and the likelihood of the problem actually being a slipped disk.
The first approach involves pain relief medications and strict rest. This option is best for breeds that:
- Commonly get slipped disks
- Are still able to walk
- Are experiencing neck pain for the first time
- Have been having symptoms for just a short time
MRI and surgery should be considered for dogs that:
- Do not commonly get slipped disks
- Have a wobbly walk or cannot walk at all
- Get better but then get worse again
The second approach involves doing tests. Tests will confirm if the symptoms are due to a slipped disk or not, which disk is affected, and if surgery will be necessary. Surgery involves a procedure called a ventral slot. Most dogs will feel much better after surgery, and at SEVN, we have a 98% chance of resolving the symptoms. Most dogs stay in our hospital for 2-4 days after surgery.