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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Cauda Equina Syndrome




Condition Overview

The cauda equina is composed of nerves that form the terminal extension of the spinal cord.


The early signs of the cauda equina syndrome include pain in the lower back (lumbosacral area), difficulty getting up, and recurring lameness in one or both hind legs.

In more advanced cases, there is weakness or partial paralysis in the hind limbs and urinary and/or fecal incontinence. The anal sphincter may be completely relaxed.


Injuries to the cauda equina can be caused by ruptured discs, spina bifida (a developmental defect in the bones of the lower back), infections of the spinal cord and disc spaces, spinal cord tumors, and lumbosacral vertebral canal stenosis.

Lumbosacral vertebral canal stenosis is an acquired disorder in which there is instability of the spine in the lower back. There may be a congenital component that produces narrowing of the bony canal. German Shepherds are most often affected.


Testing for sensation in the lumbosacral area reveals an increased sensitivity to touch and pin prick. This is the key to early diagnosis.


Medical management is similar to that described for ruptured discs. It is most successful when symptoms are mild. Surgical decompression and bone fusion can be considered for dogs who do not respond to medical management and for those with progressive hind limb weakness. Dogs with a paralyzed bladder or rectum are unlikely to benefit from treatment.


There is no prevention for this condition.


Please contact your veterinarian for more information regarding this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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