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Spinal Cord Disorder Caused by Blocked Blood Vessel in Dogs

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Fibrocartilaginous Embolic Myelopathy in Dogs


Fibrocartilaginous embolic myelopathy in dogs is a condition in which an area of the spinal cord is not able to function properly and eventually atrophies as a result of a blockage, or emboli, in the blood vessels of the spinal cord. The cause of this disorder is typically the result of an injury to the spine. The injury may be the result of jumping and landing in the wrong way, vigorous exercise, fighting, or any accident that leads to a spinal injury.


The highest number of cases tends to occur in giant and large breed dogs. Miniature schnauzers and Shetland sheepdogs are reported to be more prone to this injury. The reason has not been determined for why this is, but a suspected underlying condition of hyperlipoproteinemia that is commonly seen in these breeds is considered. Most cases occur between the ages of three and five years.


Symptoms and Types


The symptoms appear suddenly and usually follow what appears to be a mild injury or vigorous exercise.


  • Sudden, severe pain, dog may cry out at time of injury
  • Pain may subside after few minutes to hours
  • Paresis (signs of weakness or partial paralysis)
  • Paralysis
  • Lack of pain response (after initial pain response)
  • Dog may stabilize within 12-24 hours
  • Wobbly, uncoordinated or drunken gait (ataxia)




The exact cause is still unknown, but it is thought that a seemingly minor injury to the spine can force intervertebral disc material into the spinal cord, causing an embolism, or blockage of blood flow through the spinal cord. Other suspected predispositions to this disorder may be related to underlying hyperlipoproteinemia, and it is more often diagnosed in male dogs than in female.




You will need to provide a thorough history of your dog's health leading up to the onset of symptoms, the type of activities your dog engages in, and any injuries that you suspect to have recently occurred. Your veterinarian will rule out other causes, such as spinal tumor, intervertebral disc disease, or fracture before settling on a diagnosis. The above mentioned conditioned are very painful, therefore, a lack of pain can be indicative of an embolism in the spinal cord. Keep in mind that though there may be a lack of pain, the condition can be progressive and may affect long-term damage to the spine and neurological system. Immediate and supportive care is essential.


Routine laboratory test results, such as urinalysis and complete blood counts, are usually unremarkable. A sample of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) may be taken for analysis, and a sample of blood from the veins and arteries of the spinal cord may show microscopic fragments of fibrocartilage. Radiographic imaging studies may help in diagnosis. Apart from routine radiography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) remains the best diagnostic technique for viewing the spinal cord. In the later stage of fibrocartilaginous embolic myelopathy, swelling may be present at the site of the blockage.




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