Myelomalacia in Dogs

Myelomalacia in Dogs
June 28, 2019

Myelomalacia is a form of spinal cord injury which dogs can suffer from. It is classed as an acute yey compressive condition which happens due to an impaired blood supply to the spinal cord after a spinal cord injury. This will mean that the cells in the spinal cord start to deteriorate and die in a process called necrosis. In the beginning, this will happen at the site of the original injury, however, the necrosis can spread both forward and backwards from the location of the injury.

It doesn’t matter how old or young your dog is, Myelomalacia can affect dogs and cats of any age.

Myelomalacia in Dogs Symptoms

There are a few tell-tale symptoms of Myelomalacia in dogs, however, if you have reason to believe that your dog has suffered any form of spinal injury you will need to make an emergency appointment with your vet. Under no circumstances should you hang around and wait to see if they have recovered slightly in the morning.

The main symptom you will see with Myelomalacia in dogs include;

  1. Paralysis of the hind legs
  2. Your dog appears to be numb to touch or pain in any area which has a lower location below the injury.
  3. A loss of muscle tone and or reflexes in the back legs (this happens due to a softening of the spinal cord in a process called malacia).
  4. Hyperthermia
  5. Dilated back passage.

 Causes of Myelomalacia in Dogs

There are two primary causes of Myelomalacia in dogs. The first being a type 1 disk disease, and the second being a spinal injury. Spinal injuries can occur in road traffic accidents, bigger dogs tend to be hardier dogs, however, with smaller dogs, there is the potential that they can suffer from Myelomalacia if they get into a fight with larger dogs, have considerable falls, or are stepped on accidentally.

Diagnosis of Myelomalacia in Dogs

 If you’ve noticed any of the symptoms above, or you suspect that your dog may have been in an accident, book an appointment immediately. Don’t hang around as your dog could be in an incredible amount of pain.

When you take your dog to the vet, you’ll need to give your vet your dog’s full medical history including any medication which they have been taking or that they are currently taking. You’ll also need to provide a timeline of the events which led up to booking the appointment, note how quickly the symptoms were to develop and what the nature of those symptoms was.

Your vet will ask you if you are aware of any injuries or accidents that may have happened to your dog to bring about the worrying symptoms. The examination will start with a physical examination before your vets on to getting some biochemistry readings from your dog. This will generally happen alongside a urinalysis and a CBC – complete blood count. However, it is worth noting the results of the CBC may not be fully reliable initially as the evidence of damage to vital organs isn’t picked up on instantly.

Further testing may include X-rays on the spine and MRI scans, these tests will look for structural damage in the spinal cord and look at how functional aspects of the spinal cord have been affected. MRI’s and X-Rays are effective ways of spotting anything from vertebral fractures to herniated disks.

Your vet may also want to have a sample of the spinal fluid, however, you may be waiting a little longer for the results of this test compared to the others as they will need to be sent to a laboratory off-site for further evaluation in most cases. This test will assess the fluid which plays a vital role in nourishing and protecting both the spinal cord and the brain.

Treatment of Myelomalacia in Dogs

 Sadly, there is no known cure of Myelomalacia in dogs, or is there a way to reverse the damage done to the spinal cord. There are no therapies which are recommended and agreed upon by vets to slow down the effects of the disease at present. However, that isn’t to say that there won’t be a universally agreed upon treatment in the future. If your dog starts to suffer from Myelomalacia, you may also notice secondary effects of the condition, unfortunately, treating these also prove to be incredibly difficult. While some vets have been using drugs such as methylprednisolone sodium succinate and m 21-aminosteroid compounds, the effectiveness of the drugs has not been proven. 

Dogs Living with Myelomalacia

 The long-term prognosis of dogs who suffer from Myelomalacia generally isn’t a positive one. As there is no cure or viable treatment for Myelomalacia this means that the paralysis which your dog is suffering from is permanent. Due to this reason, many vets will recommend putting your pet to sleep to ease the suffering. The initial onset of the disease which causes paralysis is difficult enough for your pet to go through, however, some dogs and cats who suffer from Myelomalacia who aren’t euthanised at the vet’s recommendation can die from respiration difficulties. We never like to be the bearer of bad news, but it is for the best that you let your pet go with as much dignity as possible. Other consequences of the disease include severe pain and incontinence. 

If you’re worried about your dog’s health, especially if you have recognised some of the symptoms above, get in touch with your vet as soon as possible. Every case of Myelomalacia is different, therefore your dog will need a thorough physical examination before they are diagnosed with the condition.