Neurological Disorders in Dobermans

"I enjoy dancing. I don't have a disease."

"I enjoy dancing. I don't have a disease."

The primary neurological issue facing Doberman pinschers goes by so many names it's easy to mistake it for different disorders. While it's commonly called wobbler's syndrome, it also goes by the formal titles of cervical spondylomyelopathy, cervical vertebral instability, cervical vertebral malformation and others.

Wobbler's Syndrome

It's easy to see why this disorder is referred to as wobbler's syndrome. That's the initial sign -- wobbling in the hind end. Hereditary in the Dobie, it often affects other large dog breeds. The disease can progress from an unsteady gait to paralysis in all four legs in the worst-case scenario. According to Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, approximately 5 percent of Dobies suffer wobbler's syndrome. Five percent of those dogs end up completely paralyzed. In Dobies, it's a disease of middle-aged and older dogs. While wobbler abnormalities vary (one of the reasons for its varied names), in Dobies it generally results from "ventral compression of the spinal cord at the junction between cervical vertebral bones C5/C6 or C6/C7," according to the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare.


Your vet diagnoses wobbler's syndrome after performing X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on your Dobie. The initial X-ray is to make sure some other obvious bone issue is causing the unsteadiness. Since trauma causes symptoms similar to wobbler's, your vet wants to know about any accidents your Dobie experienced. She'll also need to rule out other diseases, such as cancer. The MRI reveals spinal lesions and the extent of the disease.


Treatment depends on how severely your Dobie is affected. While surgery offers the best option for relative recovery, it's not for every dog. If your Dobie does undergo surgery, he'll require two to three months of rest before resuming normal activities. He'll also need physical therapy, whether through a licensed veterinary physical therapist or regular exercises you must do with him. Dogs that aren't candidates for surgery can receive medical treatment, which can involve physically turning Dobies on bed rest every four hours for bedsore prevention. The vet also might instruct you on catheterizing your Dobie's bladder so that your dog doesn't need to go outside to pee. Medical treatment also requires two to three months of rest. Once your dog recovers, whether from surgery or medical treatment, he'll need to wear a harness rather than a collar when going for walks so he won't damage his neck. OSU states that the mean survival time of dogs diagnosed with wobbler's is fours year, whether treated medically or surgically.

Dancing Doberman Disease

Dancing Doberman disease might look like wobbler's syndrome, but it's not the same disorder. Only affecting the Dobie, holding up a hind leg while standing is the first sign of DDD. As time passes, the condition gets worse, as rear leg muscles waste away. The dog would rather sit down than stand. Dobies shift weight constantly on the hind legs, which gives the disease its name. Dogs with DDD don't appear to be in pain. Symptoms begin anywhere from puppyhood to old age, with males and females affected equally, according to the Doberman Pinscher Club of America. X-rays, blood and other common tests usually don't find anything amiss. Currently, there's no treatment or cure.

About the Author

Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.

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