Cauda Equina Syndrome in Dogs
The first real warning sign is your dog’s nails starting to wear down for no apparent reason

Cauda Equina Syndrome in dogs is an extremely painful disease that can be congenital, where it is present at birth, as well as acquired.

If it is acquired, it can show up at any time in your dog’s life.


If you start to see your dog nails suddenly wearing down, this is the first real warning sign of what is about to occur.

If this disease becomes severe enough, your dog will not be able to move their tail, get up or lay down, and may start to lose control of their bladder.

Cauda Equina Syndrome in dogs goes by several other names, with the most common being Lumbo-sacral disease.

It is most commonly described as arthritis of your dog’s joint between their last lumbar vertebra and their sacrum.

The sacrum in your dog is one of the bones that make up their pelvis.

This form of arthritis causes a narrowing of the canal through which both the spinal cord and the nerves pass through.

However, there is another complication with Cauda Equina Syndrome in dogs: the inter-vertebral disc is often affected as well.

When this occurs, the inter-vertebral disk between the vertebrae and the sacrum may also become abnormal.

When this happens, it makes the disease even more painful for your dog as it further narrows the canal.

When all of this comes together, it causes a compression of the nerve roots and the spinal cord.


Once this happens it will affect the lower back near the hips, as both the arthritis and the disc disease is placing pressure on the nerves coming from the spinal cord.

As a result of this pressure, your dog will start to show some very distinctive symptoms.

Cauda Equina Syndrome in dogs most commonly affects larger breeds, but it can also affect middle sized breeds as well.

There is a misconception that it only affects German shepherds, which is the breed most affected, but it can and does affect other breeds as well.

Males and females are affected with the same symptoms, as this disease plays no favorites.

Canaan dogsCauda Equina Syndrome in dogs can be devastating

The first and the most common symptom that your dog will show is pain. However, it is very important to understand that this will not be mild or moderate pain in most cases.

In fact, if it passes what is considered the mild stage, the pain will be absolutely excoriating to your dog.

Once this starts to occur, they will have a very difficult time lying down, and have even more difficulty in getting up.

If it is mild, your dog will show these first signs, but once up, they will be able to work out this stiffness, although it is usually temporary.

If it progresses, your dog may develop muscle loss in one or both if their rear legs.

Some dogs may also lose the ability to move their tail, while other dogs may be able to move their tail, but it will be very painful to any type of touching.

Because of the pain and the area that it is located in, your dog may also start to have a very difficult time urinating or defecating.

But this may be only the beginning of their problems, as they may do the complete opposite and lose total control of both processes.

One of the first signs that you can watch for with Cauda Equina Syndrome in dogs, is in their nails.

Some dogs in the very early stages will start to develop a shuffling gait, and when this occurs, they will naturally start to scuff or wear down their nails.

In some dogs the pain will become so overpowering that they will begin to chew on their pelvic area, their hind legs, as well as their tail.

Because the pain is so severe, they may also mutilate these areas which cause several other problems to develop.

Cauda Equina Syndrome in dogs is often mistaking identified as hip dysplasia, and as such, it will be very important to watch for the signs in their nails.

The earlier you can catch this very damaging disease, the better the chances of your dog surviving it as once it affects their bladder; it is a whole different ball game.


Cauda Equina Syndrome in dogs has two types of treatments; nonsurgical and surgical. The actual form of treatment with this disease, however, will depend on several factors.

The first will be the amount of pain your dog is experiencing as well as their overall general health.

If your dog is older and is not in good health, you may have to make a very difficult decision.

The other factor that will have to be considered, as cold as it may sound, is your financial position as surgery can be quite expensive.

Non-surgical treatments

Cauda Equina Syndrome in dogs can be treated without surgery if the disease is considered to be mild.

However, there is one decision that will have to be made and strictly adhered to; your dog will need complete bed rest for at least 6 to 8 weeks.

Anti-inflammatory drugs such as prednisolone is often used by your veterinarian is this disease.

However it will be very important to understand that if your dog becomes active again without the proper rest, the symptoms will almost always return.

In cases where the nerve compression is mild and the cost of the surgery is prohibitive, this same treatment may be tried for the same time frame.

However, if it does not improve, your dog can never lead a normal life again and the only humane thing to do may be to put them down.


Cauda Equina Syndrome in dogs using surgical treatments, in most cases, can be very effective.

You will need to discuss this in detail with your veterinarian as there are generally two types of surgery that they will do.

The first is to fuse the bones together to a position that is as normal as possible.

This will greatly reduce any type of abnormal friction or motion, and as a result, it dramatically reduces the risk of any further type of arthritis from developing.

The second method involves your veterinarian removing part of the bone as well as the inter-vertebral disc.

This technique will immediately remove pressure from your dog’s spinal cord as well as their nerves that have become affected.

In either of the surgical processes, your dog’s bladder will also have to be addressed.

If they have any difficulty in urinating or were unable to urinate, the bladder must be treated every day to avoid other complications.

Both of these procedures will also require complete bed rest, but not as long as the non-surgical methods. The bed rest required in these cases will only be between 2 and 4 weeks, not the 6 to 8 weeks.


Dogs with Cauda Equina Syndrome overall chances of recovery are very good if it is caught early.

However, even with surgery, if your dog’s bladder has been severely affected, the outlook is considered to be guarded at best.

The key is catching it early and looking for the symptoms.

If your dog’s nails suddenly start to wear for no apparent reason, this may the early warning you need and may just save your dog’s life.

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