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Canine Cauda Equina Syndrome | German Shepherd | Lumbosacral Stenosis | Symptoms & Treatment

One of many joint and arthritis-related illnesses common among German Shepherd Dogs, Cauda Equina Syndrome – also known as Lumbosacral Stenosis – affects the joint between the final lumbar vertebra and the sacrum, a pelvic bone. If a German Shepherd dog is suffering from Cauda Equina syndrome, the “tunnel” that surrounds the spinal cord and relevant nerves will narrow as a result of abnormalities in the bone area or invertebral disks, causing an uncomfortable and even painful “pinch” of the nerves of the spine. This painful pinch causes a number of side effects, including impaired mobility, impaired urination/defecation systems, and gradual muscular atrophy. Some dogs attempt to combat the pain by self-mutilation (ie, chewing on an afflicted tail), leading to the risk of further injury  or infection.

Symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome are similar to those for other joint, bone, and nerve conditions. The dog may exhibit signs of pain or paralysis in the hind legs, having trouble rising from a seated or lying position (but may walk easily once “up”), developing a shuffle to minimize hind-leg pressure. The dog may cease to wag or otherwise move his tail, may have trouble urinating or may become incontinent, and/or may begin to chew on his tail. However, the symptoms of this condition overlap with those of many other similar conditions; for this reason, only a qualified veterinarian should be permitted to make a certain diagnosis, often through X-ray or similar examination.

The treatment for Cauda Equina Syndrome varies with the severity of the illness. In dogs suffering from mild forms of the disease, treatment may be administered using only basic medication – an anti-inflammatory drug like prednisolone should be administered, followed by a course of bed rest lasting anywhere from six week to two months. If this proves insufficient to remove symptoms, however, or if the damage is more severe, one of two surgical treatments may be undergone. The first technique mandates the removal of the final invertebral disk as well as a portion of the pelvic bone, minimizing the pressurizing “pinch” on the spinal nerves. Another option is to fuse the vertebrae and bones together in order to decrease the likelihood of abnormal motion between the bones. Prednisolone should be taken post-surgery to reduce the risk of inflammation. Prognosis is generally good unless the dog has already become incontinent.

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