All purebred dogs are prone to certain hereditary diseases or conditions. Formally known as cervical spondylomyelopathy, Wobbler's syndrome generally doesn't appear in young Doberman pinschers. As your Dobie ages, keep an eye out for any changes in his way of moving. That's an early clue that he may have Wobbler's.
The disease, or syndrome, occurs due to a spinal abnormality in affected dogs. Although it usually affects older Dobies, signs of Wobbler's might show up in dogs as young as 3 years old. The informal name for the syndrome describes it: the dog appears wobbly.
Wobbler's disease may start subtly. Your Dobie seems uncoordinated, especially in the hind end. The dog may walk with legs spread farther apart, swaying somewhat when he moves. His front legs might be unaffected, or he may appear somewhat stiff in the front. Because the neck is involved, your dog may seem reluctant to put his head down, even to eat or drink, or might exhibit obvious pain when moving the neck from side to side. There is a slight chance that Wobbler's disease ends up paralyzing the dog.
Your vet diagnoses Wobbler's disease after taking X-rays of the spine. If these radiographs indicate additional bony growths in the neck bones, indicating possible Wobbler's, your vet performs further diagnostic testing with magnetic resonance imaging or a computer axial tomography scan -- the CAT scan for canines. These tests indicate the degree of spinal cord compression. The compression often affects several neck vertebrae.
Without treatment, your Dobie's condition continues going downhill. Your vet can treat your dog with either medical or surgical options. You also must put a harness on your dog for walks, so the neck isn't affected by pulling from a leash on the collar. Pharmaceutical treatment includes steroids and anti-inflammatories, but your Dobie's activities become fairly restricted. No more flyball or Frisbee, or anything that exacerbates the condition. Medical treatment is usually done on older dogs, or those with minor symptoms. Surgical options depend on the severity of the spinal compression.
Although Dobies affected with Wobbler's don't recover fully with medical or surgical treatment, progression of the disease may stop. Your dog's quality of life should improve, even if he's still a little off in his gait. You're dedicated to your Dobie, so you're willing to deal with the post-surgical restrictions and involve yourself with your best friend's physical therapy.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
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.