Hemivertebrae is a congenital spinal malformation where your dog's vertebrae are deformed. This is also known as ‘butterfly’ vertebra, due to how the vertebral body looks on the X-Ray. Vertebra normally look like a spool from the side, but a dog with hemivertebrae's spine will look like a wedge or a triangle. Hemivertebrae is most commonly seen in brachycephalic, screw-tailed dog breeds such as French bulldogs (also English bulldogs, Pugs, and Boston Terriers). In the screw tail dogs, the spinal malformation can pinch or compress the spinal chord causing central nervous system problems.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has Hemivertebrae?
Most of the time, hemivertbrae is dianosed by chance, most dogs are never become adversely affected by this condition. If your dog does start to show symptoms it will most commonly start in puppy hood and is due to the vertebrae in the mid back have become affected and can cause symptoms.
- Weakness of the hind limbs
Symptoms will get worse until your dog has fully matured and the vertebrae stop growing.
Diagnosis and Treatment
A simple spinal x-ray will be able to definitively tell if your pup has hemivertebrae.
If your dog is not experiencing are symptoms of spinal compression, they will not need any particular treatment but you may want to be cautious of allowing your dog to overly stress their spine as they will be more likely to have a spinal injury.
Should your dog start to show signs of weakness in their back legs or incontinence, the vet may recommend a surgical procedure is called a hemilaminectomy, which is when the material of the disc that is pressing against the spinal cord is removed. The spine will then be stabilized. With only minor symptoms treating the symptoms conservatively with crate rest anti-inflammatories will likely be recommended.
Does Having Hemivertebrae Mean My Dog Will Be Paralyzed?
Most likely no, the vertebral malformation usually occurs in the tail of the dog and does not affect the spinal cord. In a small number of cases where your dog becomes symptomatic, the hemilaminectomy surgery can help your dog regain the ability to walk!