Prevalence, clinical presentation, prognosis, and outcome of 17 dogs with spinal shock and acute thoracolumbar spinal cord disease

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To describe the prevalence, signalment, clinical features, etiology, and outcome in dogs with acute thoracolumbar disease and suspected spinal shock.


Retrospective clinical case study (2005–2010).


Private specialty practice.


Medical records of 263 dogs with thoracolumbar spinal magnetic resonance imaging were reviewed. If decreased or absent withdrawal reflexes were present in 1 or both pelvic limbs, in the absence of a spinal lesion in the lumbosacral intumescence, dogs were diagnosed with spinal shock. Dogs with suspected or confirmed spinal neoplasia, myelomalacia, or meningomyelitis were excluded. Seventeen of 263 dogs (6%) met inclusion criteria.



Measurements and Main Results

Thoracic lesions were significantly more likely to result in spinal shock when compared to lumbar lesions (P = 0.03). Fibrocartilaginous embolism was the most commonly diagnosed etiology (7 of 17 dogs), and was more common in the thoracic spine compared to in the lumbar spine (P = 0.10). Six of 17 dogs (35%) were diagnosed with intervertebral disk herniation; 4 of 17 dogs (24%) with suspected acute noncompressive nucleus pulposus extrusion. Two dogs were lost to follow-up. Fourteen of 15 (93%) dogs had improved or normal reflexes by 60 days post injury.


Although the prevalence of spinal shock was low, it should be considered in any dog presenting with an acute history of thoracolumbar spinal injury with reduced or absent reflexes in the pelvic limbs. The presence of spinal shock should not dissuade a veterinarian from pursuing appropriate diagnostic testing and therapy for the underlying etiology.

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