Wobbler syndrome is a neurological disorder that affects dogs and is caused by neck bones compressing the spinal cord. The pressure on the spine results in nerve damage that results in wobbler symptoms. Knowing what signs to look for can identify this syndrome quickly so that appropriate care or surgery can be provided.
One of the first signs of wobbler syndrome is a weak, wobbly gait in the dog's back legs. The hips sway from side to side when it's walking due to the nerve damage causing decreased control over the hind leg muscles. The hind legs sometimes begin to extend outward and become stiff as if the dog was stretching, according to the Textbook of Small Animal Orthopaedics. This leads to the dog walking with a pendulum-type motion, swinging its hind legs forward one at a time.
Another major symptom is weakness in the front legs, which result in the dog having trouble getting up from a lying down position. This is because the bulk of a dog's weight is centered over the shoulders and requires the most strength to lift. According to Ronaldo C. da Costa, DMV, the front legs can become so weak with wobbler syndrome that a dog's feet may buckle and fall over face forward. The dog will avoid slippery surfaces that require strength in the front legs because of this weakness and lack of coordination.
Dogs with wobbler syndrome often scrape the top of their feet and toenails on the ground when walking, causing the top of the nails to become short or worn-looking, according to the Textbook of Small Animal Orthopaedics. This is due to the dog's inability to keep its feet upright and lifted off the ground while walking.
The neck is another region affected by wobbler syndrome. The most common symptom is general weakness in the neck, leading the dog to lie down frequently and walking with the head held low. If the dog is just beginning to develop wobbler syndrome, it may seem "lazy" or tired. The dog may turn its entire body instead of its head to see something due to limited coordination and strength in the neck muscles. Manually moving a dog around slightly may cause pain due to muscle stiffness and pinched nerves.
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