Vertebral Instability

in dogs is part of a health disorder that involves the cervical portion of the spinal cord.

The vertebral column serves to protect the spinal cord and provide posture for the body and attachment for muscles. The cervical or neck portion of the spinal column consists of seven vertebrae separated by disks that act as shock absorbers for the vertebrae. The condition of vertebral instability is caused by abnormalities or congenital defects in intervertebral discs, ligaments, or bones. The causes for these abnormalities are not certain, but nutrition and heredity are thought to play integral roles.


Clinical symptoms generally include lack of motor coordination in the legs, difficulty rising, and collapse when walking. The highest prominence of animal vertebral instability has been seen in Great Danes and Doberman Pinschers. Medical treatment with steroids can sometimes alleviate the milder cases of vertebral instability.

– Symptoms progress from:

– Unwillingness to bend the neck

– Weakness or uncoordinated in hind limbs

– Weakness in the front limbs as well



When acute or chronic disk abnormalities are present, the best option is usually surgery. The goals of the surgical procedure are to decrease the compression of the discs on the spinal cord and prevent further damage that the compression causes to the central nervous system, and to stabilize the spinal column for improved function and mobility.

The exact method for correcting vertebral instability should be determined by a board certified veterinary surgeon based on the level of compression and location of abnormalities in the cervical column.