Cervical Vertebral Instability in Boston Terriers

Cervical Vertebral Instability, also known as Wobbler Syndrome, refers to a set of conditions that are a result of the presence of lesions in the spinal cord, usually located at the base of the neck (the caudal cervical spine). When these lesions are present, they compress the spinal cord.

There are many factors that can cause this condition, including nutritional, genetic, and biochemical factors. Some of the more minor factors include cancer, diskospondylitis, juvenile orthopedic diseases, and inflammatory conditions of the spinal cord.

A developmental malformation that leads to the malarticulation of the cervical vertebrae, Wobbler Syndrome is a serious pain in the neck – literally. Breeds that suffer from this condition most often have large, heavy heads. This creates even more of a load on its neck, leading to abnormal development of the vertebrae.

When the spinal cord is compressed, it leads to the manifestation of nervous signs particularly in the hind legs. Some of the first signs you’ll notice in a dog that suffers from Cervical Vertebral Instability include instability, slipping, and scuffing its paws while moving. The duration of the disease and severity of signs will depend on the degree of compression.

Most cases of Wobbler Syndrome are acute. The clinical signs include:

• Neck pain

•Scuffed paws


•Difficulties when rising from a lying or sitting position to a standing position.

•Worn toenails

•Varying degrees of muscle atrophy

•May be further complicated with Horner’s Syndrome

•Signs may worsen when the dog attempts to flex its neck

There are two forms of Wobbler Syndrome. The first form affects young dogs. All of the bones of the neck may be affected. The second form is a result of Type II disk herniation. This is followed by the hypertrophy of vertebral ligaments due to the instability of the vertebrae.

Genetics is a major contributory factor of Wobbler Syndrome. If your dog is diagnosed with the illness, it should never be used for breeding.

To diagnose the condition, your veterinarian needs to conduct a series of physical and neurological tests in order to pinpoint the location and determine the severity of the syndrome. These tests include a biochemical profile, complete blood tests, urinalysis, cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF) tap and neuro-imaging, x-ray of the cervical region, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

In order to relieve the compressive pressure on the spinal cord, surgical intervention is usually required.