Table of Contents
What Is Wobbler’s Syndrome?
Wobbler’s syndrome, also known as cervical spondylomyelopathy, is a disease of the cervical spine (neck region) in dogs. It occurs primarily in large and giant breeds, causing neurological problems and neck pain. The disease results in a small spinal canal which compresses the spinal cord, but there are two forms in which this takes place. In one form, the dog has small spinal canal with ‘herniated discs’. There are discs, like pads, that absorb shock between each of the spinal bones. When one of these slips out of place and pushes into the spinal canal where the spinal cord runs, we call it ‘herniated’. In the other form, the disease results in a small spinal canal with bits of malformed bone that push on the spinal cord.
Wobbler’s syndrome can cause an unsteady gait (hence the name of the disease) in a dog’s back legs, and sometimes in their front legs as well. They may drag their feet or lose muscle mass in their legs or above their shoulders. Wobbler’s can also cause a significant level of neck pain and other neurological symptoms since the disease compresses the spinal cord and possibly, depending on severity, the roots of the spinal nerves.
What Dogs Are Most Likely to Get Wobbler’s Syndrome?
Wobbler’s is most often diagnosed in large and giant breeds. The most common are Great Danes and Dobermans, but other breeds known to develop the disease are Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Weimaraners, Saint Bernards, Dalmatians, and German Shepherds. Small breeds have a possibility of developing Wobbler’s as well, although the percentage compared to large breeds is very slight.
What Causes Wobbler’s Syndrome?
Genetics are commonly thought to be the cause of Wobbler’s syndrome, although this is not known for sure. There are multiple factors previously thought to be potential causes as well, such as nutrition, shape or structure of the spine, and growth rate, but the disease is not fully understood yet. Hopefully in the future there will be continued studies that will give us more insight into what causes this disease and possibly how to prevent it.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has Wobbler’s Syndrome?
Large breeds, such as Dobermans, typically develop Wobbler’s syndrome a bit later in life - around six years on average. Giant breeds like Great Danes may develop the disease younger and commonly start showing symptoms around three years of age. If you are concerned that your dog is beginning to show one or more of these symptoms and may have Wobbler’s, it’s best to contact your veterinarian for an appointment.
Signs and Symptoms
- Uncoordinated gait
- Walking with head hung low (this can be a sign of pain)
- Trouble getting up or staying upright, a general appearance of weakness
- Paralysis in limbs (in severe cases)
How Is Wobbler’s Syndrome Diagnosed?
- Your veterinarian can perform a physical and neurological examination of your dog to determine whether a neck problem is causing their symptoms.
- X-rays are used to identify bony malformations that may be compressing the spinal cord or nerves, and CT (computed tomograpy) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans are sometimes used as well for detailed imaging. These may be offered at your veterinarian’s clinic, or you could be referred to an animal hospital.
How Is Wobbler’s Syndrome Treated?
Wobbler’s can be treated with medication or surgery. Reducing the types or level of activity your dog engages in can also help lessen the symptoms they experience. You will want to swap out their neck collar and leash for a chest harness since the disease is located in the cervical vertebrae.
Medications used to treat Wobbler’s are typically anti-inflammatory drugs, such as corticosteroids. There is about a 50% rate of improvement seen in dogs who are treated medically. A more natural anti-inflammatory option that is non-steroidal is a high-quality CBD oil.
Surgical treatment for dogs that are not responsive to medication involve reducing compression of the spinal cord and nerve roots, and sometimes a spinal fusion of the affected vertebrae to prevent future compression. Your veterinarian can guide you through what options would be the best for your dog.
Does CBD Work For Dogs With Wobbler’s Syndrome?
While there are relatively few studies that have been performed on Wobbler’s in any capacity, CBD does have several effects that would combat the symptoms of the disease:
- CBD has anti-inflammatory effects which can relieve the inflamed tissues and reduce pressure on the compressed spinal cord and nerve roots. Often, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are used, but CBD may have fewer side-effects for your dog.
- CBD helps to control and limit pain responses in the brain, whether caused directly by Wobbler’s syndrome or by the recovery period following any surgical treatment.
- CBD works to decrease anxiety and stress in both humans and dogs. This can help your dog cope with the stress of the developing symptoms as well as any unfamiliar or uncomfortable experiences during treatment, such as increased veterinarian visits or surgery.
- CBD can positively affect healing speeds by increasing the amount and quality of sleep that your dog is getting. This effect can also help your dog cope with any changes that Wobbler’s syndrome has on their routine and activity.
What CBD Is Best for My Dog’s Wobbler’s Syndrome?
A THC-free CBD should be used since THC is currently thought to be toxic to dogs at any level. Choosing a third-party, lab-verified CBD oil provides peace of mind for owners who prefer high-quality products to help their dog.
A well-formulated under-the-tongue oil has been shown to be the best form of CBD for dogs since they can absorb CBD directly through the tissues in their mouth.
Relievet makes oils that are THC-free, easy to dose, and specifically designed for weight-based dosing. All current studies on dosing CBD are weight-based, meaning CBD is given specific to how heavy your dog is. CBD is usually dosed at 1-2mg/kg, and this is the dose Relievet recommends most of the time.
See our article on weight-based CBD dosing here.
If your dog cannot or will not take drops under the tongue, the next best options are to use our weight-based treats or to put the oil on food or a treat your dog likes. Our oils are very palatable and go well with any dog treats or foods.
What Can I Expect After My Dog’s Wobbler’s Syndrome Is Treated?
There is a varying rate of success after surgical and medical treatment of Wobbler’s. About half of dogs who receive medical treatment see improvement in the condition. Surgical treatment success is closer to 80%, and about 20% of both groups have a chance of worsening.
Using supplements such as CBD, whether paired with treatments or by itself, to help your dog navigate this disease may give them an better chance of an improved healing process or persevering through the challenges of their treatment.
Although little is known about the causes of Wobbler’s syndrome, there are multiple options to help your dog if they are diagnosed. Whether your veterinarian recommends surgery or medication, you can help at home by adjusting their routine activities and looking into alternative supplements to lower their stress and pain levels.