Hemivertebrae

Orthopedic/Arthritis: Problems associated with joints, bone, and connective tissue, and CH (cerebellar hypoplasia), or brain damage.
Post Reply
Lotte1111
Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Apr 07, 2024 8:12 pm

Hemivertebrae

Post by Lotte1111 »

I have a 16m old terrier, she has a curly tail, despite this not being a breed trait. I recently googled why some dogs have curly tails and stumbled upon hemivertebrae and a lot of things are now making sense about my dog, we’re booked in to see the vet this week.

I cannot find much information on the internet about the early symptoms of this condition and would love to hear from others who have experienced it directly, do any of the below symptoms sound similar to what you noticed?

My pup has struggled to house train, the usual method of identifying when your dog needs to pee never works with her, because it always seems to catch her by surprise, like she will be trotting along or playing with her ball and will suddenly just start peeing or pooping. Ever since she was a pup it was easy to see when she needed to poop cause her butt hole bulges like crazy and she has to go there and then, there’s no chance of her holding it whilst she searches for the right spot to poop.

The last time I mentioned it to the vet was when pup was much younger, vet said some pups just have weaker bladders/bowels and it sometimes takes time for them to develop better control, so I really wasn’t worried about it too much. However, it seems to have gotten worse, not better. Just this last two weeks she’s been leaving trails of pee - where it’s obvious she started peeing whilst in motion, then stopped to finish. I also saw a poop just fall out of her butt whilst she was playing.

Also, I have been getting help from a behaviourist for what I thought were dominance/aggression issues, sometimes when she is sat on my lap and I move or adjust myself she snarls and growls and snaps. After reading about this condition it occurred to me that perhaps she was in pain and ever since I’ve been more conscientious and observed more carefully and I’m wracked with guilt not to have noticed this before.

All the other signs are more subtle and I don’t know if I’m being paranoid or looking too much into things. She doesn’t like being picked up and will actively move away from me if I try to grab her. She is a challenging dog behaviour wise, I am now wondering if pain/discomfort might be an underlying cause of that.

She is very active and exercises and eats well, her gait is kind of odd but more noticeable in the front legs. She is sometimes clumsy and often falls over or tumbles when running. I know that no one here can diagnose her, I’m just looking to hear from others and get some understanding and reassurance of how this condition first presented for others. It sounds like a serious condition and I’m so worried about her and sad I didn’t realise she might be struggling.
User avatar
CarolC
Moderator
Posts: 13742
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2003 7:00 pm
Contact:

Re: Hemivertebrae

Post by CarolC »

Hi Lotte1111,
:violet:

What kind of dog is she if you don't mind saying? Boston terrier, Westie, Yorkie, another breed?

I am not one of the people who has had a hemivertebrae dog, but some of what you describe sounds like my dog, Pip. I can see why you suspect hemivertebrae if her tail is curled when it shouldn't be and you're noticing incontinence that has been there since she was little. I remember sunspirit's dog Tucker became more incontinent and had more mobility issues as he grew up, but his mobility issues were in the hind legs and he became a wheelchair dog. He was a pug with hemivertebrae. Here is a list of posts by sunspirit where she mentions Tucker.

The rest of what you say makes me wonder if your terrier has 2 things going on (possible hemivertebrae and something else as well). The possible hemivertebrae near the tail would not affect her front legs. The description of being snappish when you shift position, and protective of herself not wanting to be picked up, and most of all the wobbly walk in her front legs, sounds like a neck problem. Neck problems are painful and a dog will be act as you described.
Lotte1111 wrote: Sun Apr 07, 2024 8:20 pmShe is very active and exercises and eats well, her gait is kind of odd but more noticeable in the front legs. She is sometimes clumsy and often falls over or tumbles when running.
My dog Pip is quadriplegic (or quadriparetic, not fully paralyzed). He is more paralyzed in his front legs, but also affected in his hind legs. He was diagnosed with central cord syndrome, which is a condition where the front legs are more affected, while the hind legs seem better than the front. In his case, the problem is atlantoaxial instability. That is where a vertebrae in the neck was not fully formed and his neck becomes easily misaligned, which is painful because there is not supposed to be that kind of excess movement in the neck when the vertebrae are correctly formed.

Like you say, nobody can diagnose over the Internet, and that was not what you were looking for. But to be safe, since this does sound like a possible neck (cervical) problem I would put her on crate rest till you find out what is going on at the vet. The idea is to prevent her from doing something athletic that might make matters worse. There is no way to know if she might jump off the sofa or the steps or something and become fully paralyzed in all 4 legs (which can affect breathing as well). If she is wearing a neck collar, I would change to a chest harness instead, or let her wear nothing. No pushing through a doggie door or playing tug of war or doing anything that would strain her neck.

I hope you can find out what is going on. I'm guessing it will require a referral to a neurologist, and you might need to pay for advanced imaging. If your regular vet seems unconcerned, I think you should advocate for your dog. I think the things you are noticing are important :!: :!: :!: , and while hemivertebrae is something that can affect a dog and be dealt with, a cervical problem can be extremely painful and potentially even fatal. The first vet I went to for Pip did not do imaging and completely misdiagnosed him. He only got his correct diagnosis after proper imaging.

I hope you will post back what you find out (and I would love to know what kind of dog she is).
User avatar
critters
Founding Member
Posts: 14388
Joined: Sat Apr 28, 2001 7:00 pm

Re: Hemivertebrae

Post by critters »

:whale: Don’t feel bad about potentially having missed this; vet rehab medicine is far behind the human kind. When my Ares got here multiple vets had decreed him to have a brachial nerve injury (in his arm) and a neck spine injury. It turned out he had a broken shoulder blade and brain damage.

With unusual vet presentations it can take awhile to sort it out, even with experience.
Lotte1111
Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Apr 07, 2024 8:12 pm

Re: Hemivertebrae

Post by Lotte1111 »

Wawa is a patterdale terrier. Thank you so much for your detailed reply!
It is hard to describe her gait, I don’t know if it’s the front legs that are affected or if they’re overcompensating for her hind legs. She is very energetic and active and runs like the wind, so that’s a good indicator she can’t be on top much pain, right?
I don’t know if it’s possible to keep her crated, she is an exceptionally high energy dog and needs a lot of exercise, how would I calm her enough to keep her in rest? Do you think it’s worth asking the vet for a sedative ahead of our appointment?

I will read through all the posts about Tucker, thank you for sharing this.

Our vet appointment is on Wednesday and I’m keeping all my digits crossed that my fears are unfounded 🤞 I will be sure to update this post and let you know.
CarolC wrote: Sun Apr 07, 2024 10:15 pm Hi Lotte1111,
:violet:

What kind of dog is she if you don't mind saying? Boston terrier, Westie, Yorkie, another breed?

I am not one of the people who has had a hemivertebrae dog, but some of what you describe sounds like my dog, Pip. I can see why you suspect hemivertebrae if her tail is curled when it shouldn't be and you're noticing incontinence that has been there since she was little. I remember sunspirit's dog Tucker became more incontinent and had more mobility issues as he grew up, but his mobility issues were in the hind legs and he became a wheelchair dog. He was a pug with hemivertebrae. Here is a list of posts by sunspirit where she mentions Tucker.

The rest of what you say makes me wonder if your terrier has 2 things going on (possible hemivertebrae and something else as well). The possible hemivertebrae near the tail would not affect her front legs. The description of being snappish when you shift position, and protective of herself not wanting to be picked up, and most of all the wobbly walk in her front legs, sounds like a neck problem. Neck problems are painful and a dog will be act as you described.
Lotte1111 wrote: Sun Apr 07, 2024 8:20 pmShe is very active and exercises and eats well, her gait is kind of odd but more noticeable in the front legs. She is sometimes clumsy and often falls over or tumbles when running.
My dog Pip is quadriplegic (or quadriparetic, not fully paralyzed). He is more paralyzed in his front legs, but also affected in his hind legs. He was diagnosed with central cord syndrome, which is a condition where the front legs are more affected, while the hind legs seem better than the front. In his case, the problem is atlantoaxial instability. That is where a vertebrae in the neck was not fully formed and his neck becomes easily misaligned, which is painful because there is not supposed to be that kind of excess movement in the neck when the vertebrae are correctly formed.

Like you say, nobody can diagnose over the Internet, and that was not what you were looking for. But to be safe, since this does sound like a possible neck (cervical) problem I would put her on crate rest till you find out what is going on at the vet. The idea is to prevent her from doing something athletic that might make matters worse. There is no way to know if she might jump off the sofa or the steps or something and become fully paralyzed in all 4 legs (which can affect breathing as well). If she is wearing a neck collar, I would change to a chest harness instead, or let her wear nothing. No pushing through a doggie door or playing tug of war or doing anything that would strain her neck.

I hope you can find out what is going on. I'm guessing it will require a referral to a neurologist, and you might need to pay for advanced imaging. If your regular vet seems unconcerned, I think you should advocate for your dog. I think the things you are noticing are important :!: :!: :!: , and while hemivertebrae is something that can affect a dog and be dealt with, a cervical problem can be extremely painful and potentially even fatal. The first vet I went to for Pip did not do imaging and completely misdiagnosed him. He only got his correct diagnosis after proper imaging.

I hope you will post back what you find out (and I would love to know what kind of dog she is).
Lotte1111
Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Apr 07, 2024 8:12 pm

Re: Hemivertebrae

Post by Lotte1111 »

Thank you! I appreciate your reassurance 🙏🏻💖
critters wrote: Mon Apr 08, 2024 5:14 am :whale: Don’t feel bad about potentially having missed this; vet rehab medicine is far behind the human kind. When my Ares got here multiple vets had decreed him to have a brachial nerve injury (in his arm) and a neck spine injury. It turned out he had a broken shoulder blade and brain damage.

With unusual vet presentations it can take awhile to sort it out, even with experience.
User avatar
CarolC
Moderator
Posts: 13742
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2003 7:00 pm
Contact:

Re: Hemivertebrae

Post by CarolC »

Boy, I don't know. It's confusing that she runs like the wind but falls over a lot, and seems not to be in pain when running so fast. I tend to lean toward better safe than sorry on crating, but it's a judgment call, you know her best. It wouldn't hurt to get the vet's opinion on that. When I checked genetic diseases in the breed, it does mention IVDD, which could cause the incontinence you are seeing, but I would think you'd see more of a drunken gait in the hind legs along with it. IVDD can be in the back or the neck, but this situation is pretty puzzling. I do hope you will post back if you find out what is going on, whether you get the answers on Wednesday or it takes a referral for more testing.
:pardon:
Post Reply