Disease of the posterior spine
Cauda equina (compression) syndrome is found in all dogs but primarily affects large breeds. The sick animals no longer want to jump and prefer to trot more slowly than before. Overall, they become much calmer and no longer want to play. The reason for this change in behavior is pain that occurs when the back spine is stretched (“hollow back”).
This pain usually occurs at the transition from the last lumbar vertebra to the sacrum. Both bones are connected with ligaments at the top of the vertebral joints. These can degenerate and stretch, making the connection unstable. As a result, the intervertebral disc presses against the individual nerves in the spinal canal. Since these are covered at the top by the bony vertebral roof, they cannot avoid the pressure from below and are crushed.
Instability in the lumbar spine develops over a period of one to three years. The pain-related symptoms develop correspondingly slowly, so that they are often difficult to interpret and usually only become apparent at a late stage. If the spinal cord is exposed to abnormal pressure for a long time, it will be damaged. Loss of nerve function occurs: At the beginning there is a sporadic grinding of the toes of the hind legs. Later, there may be a complete loss of control of the hind limbs. In most cases, control over defecation and urination is then slowly lost.
If your dog shows such symptoms, please see your veterinarian immediately. In the early stages, your animal can be helped surgically.
Therapy for cauda equina
In cauda equina syndrome surgery, the roof of the last lumbar vertebra and the roof of part of the sacrum are lifted, exposing the spinal nerves (dorsal laminectomy). This has two major benefits: the pressure removal immediately relieves the pain and further progressive damage is prevented. However, nerves that have already been damaged only partially recover.
This technique seems risky because nerve tissue is very vulnerable. Decades of experience have shown, however, that the back muscles, the large pelvis and the back fat that every dog has in this area offer sufficient protection to then allow romping, jumping and rolling around safely.