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Wobbler syndrome, also known as cervical spondylomyelopathy, is a condition that affects the spine of large breed dogs, causing weakness and instability in their hind limbs. Today, our Thousand Oaks vets discuss what you should know about wobbler syndrome, the symptoms, and the treatment options available.

What impact does Wobbler Syndrome have on dogs?

Wobbler syndrome in dogs is a condition that affects the cervical spine, causing compression of the spinal cord. This compression can lead to symptoms such as neck pain, weakness in the limbs, and an unsteady gait. While the primary cause of wobbler syndrome is genetic, dietary factors may also play a role in its development.

The condition is most commonly seen in large and giant breed dogs, such as Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, and Mastiff-type breeds.

What are the symptoms of Wobbler Syndrome in dogs?

Normally, the initial symptoms of Wobble Syndrome in dogs are quite mild. They may include:

  • occasional pelvic limb weakness.
  • difficulties getting up from lying.
  • scuffing of the toe nails.

These symptoms should not be ignored. Schedule an appointment with your vet because the earlier Wobble Syndrome is detected,  the better the chances of successful treatment and management.

These symptoms may progress to more severe neurological issues if left untreated. These include:

  • Weakness and uncoordinated gait (known as ataxia), usually first seen in the pelvic limbs
  • Lameness/stiffness in the thoracic limbs
  • Neck pain and/or stiffness
  • Partial or complete paralysis

Is Wobbler Syndrome in dogs an emergency?

Wobbler Syndrome in dogs is not typically considered a medical emergency, but it can lead to serious complications if left untreated. It is important to seek veterinary care promptly if you suspect your dog may be suffering from this condition. 

How can vets diagnosis Wobbler Syndrome in dogs?

Diagnostic tests that can help diagnose Wobbler Syndrome in dogs include radiographs, CT scans and MRIs to evaluate the spinal cord and vertebrae.


X-rays can help diagnose Wobbler Syndrome in dogs by revealing abnormalities in the cervical spine, such as narrowing of the spinal canal or misalignment of vertebrae. Additionally, X-rays can also show signs of degenerative changes or bone spurs that may be contributing to the condition.

CT Scans

CT scans can detect compression of the spinal cord and abnormalities in the vertebrae that are characteristic of Wobbler Syndrome. Additionally, CT scans can provide detailed images of the affected area, helping veterinarians determine the best course of treatment for the condition.


Your vet may need to refer your dog to a specialist for this specific test. MRIs can provide detailed images of soft tissues, such as the spinal cord and surrounding nerves, which can help identify the extent of damage and any potential causes of Wobbler Syndrome. Additionally, MRIs can also show inflammation or fluid buildup in the affected area, aiding in the diagnosis and treatment plan.

What are the treatment options for Wobbler Syndrome in dogs?

Broadly speaking, there are two treatment options available for Wobbler Syndrome in dogs: medical management and surgery.

Medical Management

Medical management usually includes activity restriction and corticosteroid treatment to reduce swelling. While steroids can initially improve symptoms, most dogs worsen once the medication is tapered or stopped. In cases where surgery is not an option, such as in older dogs with mild symptoms or those with compression in multiple areas, medical management alone may be recommended. 


There are two basic surgeries for dogs with Wobbler Syndrome. They are called a dorsal laminectomy and a ventral slot surgery.

A dorsal laminectomy in dogs is a surgical procedure where the top part of the vertebrae, known as the lamina, is removed to create more space within the spinal canal and relieve pressure on the spinal cord. This allows for better mobility and function in dogs with wobbler disease. 

A ventral slot surgery in dogs involves making an incision on the underside of the neck to access the spinal cord and remove the problematic disc material causing compression. This procedure is often recommended for cases of wobbler disease where a bulging disc is the root cause.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

The symptoms of Wobbler's Syndrome in dogs should never be ignored. If you notice any signs of neck pain, weakness, or unsteady gait in your dog, contact our Thousand Oaks vets to have your dog checked out.

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VSEC Thousand Oaks is accepting new patients! Our board-certified specialists and experienced emergency veterinarians are passionate about restoring good health to animal companions.

Contact (805) 492-2436