Spina Bifida is a congenital disability you may have heard of in humans. But guess what? Spina bifida in dogs is real, too. This is why we wrote a brief article about what to expect if they own a dog diagnosed with Spina Bifida.
So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!
What is spina bifida?
Spina bifida is a congenital disease that occurs while the affected puppy is still in the mother dog’s uterus. During this time, as we all know, all of the body parts begin to form, including the vertebrae, spinal cord, brain, and meninges. And if anything goes wrong in developing these four things, it could lead to the development of the medical condition known as spina bifida.
The most common…
The issue that can arise is when the vertebrae along the spinal cord don’t fuse properly, which winds up causing many other problems. It can also impact vertebral arches. You will know if a dog has spina bifida very early on because they will have problems trying to walk.
What causes spina bifida to occur in dogs?
What causes spina bifida in dogs remains a mystery. Some believe that it may be due to malnutrition or some environmental toxin. While others believe it is probably due to some hereditary condition, the evidence doesn’t seem to support that any breed may be at an increased risk over another.
The truth is…
At this point, nobody knows, indicating that the cause is probably more complex than just any one factor and is likely a combination of environmental and genetic factors.
Symptoms and Clinical Signs
As mentioned, you’ll know if a dog has spina bifida right around the time he starts to walk. This is a condition most often diagnosed in puppies. He will probably fall with ataxia if he has a spinal problem of this severity. There are other signs like hind leg muscle atrophy and urinary problems. Another thing is that some dogs wag/use their tail strangely, but the main thing is that they cannot walk!
It’s important to note that spina bifida is usually present in the lower back rather than the upper spine. If your dog has upper spine problems, it may be another condition and not SB.
Diagnosis of Spina Bifida in Dogs
To accurately diagnose a dog with spina bifida, a vet will give a physical and neurological exam. They will want an x-ray of the dog’s spine and possibly an MRI. If the dog has the kind of spina bifida where the vertebrae have no malformation, then it’s possible that your dog could have the condition, and you’ll never know!
The good thing is that this is not a degenerative disease. The bad news is that there isn’t a treatment option for spina bifida in dogs. And while children with spina bifida typically undergo surgery, this isn’t the case with dogs or puppies. There have been recent cases where bulldog puppies were part of a trial at UC Davis and received a stem cell treatment. This treatment did help the puppies. However, it’s not yet available to ordinary people like you and me!
We hope stem cell therapy becomes a legitimate option for dogs and children with spina bifida. Maybe in a few years, it will be!
Prognosis of Spina Bifida in dogs
Spina bifida isn’t known to decrease a dog’s life expectancy – though, of course, any time a dog has difficulties walking, it’s more likely for them to die of an accidental death.
As a pet owner…
The most you can do is try to offer your dog a comfortable life however you think best. Some believe euthanasia is the best option for dogs with severe spina bifida. Of course, you will have to decide this for yourself as we here at IndulgeYourPet do not endorse euthanasia for convenience but only in cases where an animal is suffering needlessly.
Which brings us to…
We want to remind folks that we at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians, or medical professionals. We are all a bunch of folks passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them. If you feel your pet may have spina bifida (or any other health issue), you’ll want to have them checked out by a vet ASAP!
An early diagnosis will often lead to the “best” medical outcome for your pet regardless of what is bothering them, but beyond that, diagnosing a medical condition early could save you a bundle in medical costs!
As we mentioned, there aren’t many treatment options. However, dogs with spina bifida may have other problems down the line as a result of SB. If this is the case, your medical costs will be contingent upon that. As the puppy parent of a spina bifida pup, you should anticipate that you may have to shell out $100-500 a year for doctor’s visits and so forth. This is also why we at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.
Now, will a puppy diagnosed with Spina Bifida be eligible for coverage?
No, probably not. But chances are, if you own a dog that suffers from spina bifida, we’re willing to bet that you also own another animal who may be eligible for insurance coverage and who could one day need it!
For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.