Horse tail syndrome in a dog: causes, symptoms, treatment

A strong narrowing in the region of the lumbosacral spinal canal, leading to the development of degenerative processes and disruption of the hind limbs, is called horse tail syndrome. This pathological condition in dogs develops in most cases after 4-6 years. Large dog breeds such as German Shepherd, Retriever and Boxer are affected.

Description of pathology and causes

The connection of the nerve roots passing in parts of the spinal cord at the sacrum level is called the horse's tail. This is due to the fact that externally the nerve bundles resemble a ponytail - a continuation of the nerve fibers of the spinal cord. These nerve fibers are responsible for the innervation of the hind limbs and organs located in the pelvis.

Note! The main causes of horse tail syndrome in a dog are hernias between the vertebral discs. They can occur due to heavy loads on the site, or develop as a result of injuries after an accident.

An important aspect for the beginning of the development of pathology is the age of the dog. So, with age, processes of a degenerative nature occur in the body, ligaments of the intervertebral discs weaken, their rupture occurs. As the disease progresses, the load on the spine increases.

Other causes of equine tail syndrome are:

  • neoplasms in the spinal cord - malignant and benign;
  • anesthesia in the spinal canal;
  • genetic anomalies;
  • vertebral stricture in the lumbar region;
  • inflammatory processes and infections of cerebrospinal fluid - cerebrospinal fluid;
  • lumbar injuries - injuries, hitting vehicles;
  • postoperative complications;
  • congenital malformations of venous and arterial vessels in the sacral region.

Types of changes and symptoms

According to the World Veterinary Organization, there is a clear gradation dividing the syndrome into two main types - the first and second.

A degenerative stricture in the lumbosacral is of the first type. This species is associated with abnormal development of the processes of joints and their displacement relative to the sacrum.

In certain dog breeds, namely Labradors, the horse-tail syndrome of the first type is combined with the underdevelopment of the hip joint. It occurs at an early age, but timely accurate diagnosis is problematic due to the similarity of the main symptoms of the pathology with other diseases of the musculoskeletal system - arthritis, dysplasia and rupture of the sacrum.

The second type of pathology develops in adulthood - 3 to 7 years. The owner of the animal may notice characteristic changes when the dog is over 8 years old.

Based on the fact that the disease is associated with compression of the nerve endings in the lumbar region, severe pain occurs in the animal.

The basic signs of the development of horse tail syndrome in a dog are:

  • severe weakness in the hind legs;
  • pain in the legs and lumbar region;
  • animal nervousness and whining, due to severe pain;
  • the occurrence of pain when raising the tail;
  • uncertain gait;
  • obvious lameness;
  • problems with bowel movements and urination;
  • paresis and paralysis of the hind legs;
  • problems with erection in dogs.


A clear diagnosis is possible only in veterinary clinics equipped with special equipment. This is due to the fact that horse tail syndrome has a number of characteristic features. An accurate diagnosis is made only after collecting a complete medical history and examination.

The following methods are optional:

  • neurological examination;
  • radiography;
  • laboratory blood tests;
  • puncture of cerebrospinal fluid;
  • magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography.

Studies of a neurological nature are carried out in order to exclude or confirm a disorder in the nervous system, localization of the pathology and the degree of damage to the roots of the spinal cord.

A biochemical blood test is performed to evaluate the functioning of the renal structures, liver, pancreas and the state of the immune system. In some cases, oncological diseases are established during blood biochemistry.

The most informative diagnostic method is computed tomography. Thanks to this technique, it is possible to accurately assess the state of tissues located next to the spine. Modern veterinary clinics combine computed tomography with myelography. This allows us to assess the patency of the cerebrospinal fluid, the condition of the spinal canal.


After making the correct diagnosis, treatment is prescribed. Depending on the manifestations of the pathology, the treatment can be conservative or surgical. With the appearance of characteristic symptoms and contacting specialists for one to two months, a conservative treatment technique can eliminate the symptoms in 23 - 56% of cases.

AscendThe occurrence of cauda equina syndrome due to a violation of the genetic nature, intervertebral hernias, vertebral fractures, surgical intervention is strongly recommended.

The operation consists in resection of the parts that cause compression of the vertebrae. After surgery, it is important to conduct drug therapy in combination with physiotherapeutic procedures.

The choice of treatment methodology mainly depends on the reason for the development of the syndrome. Timely contacting a veterinarian with the appearance of the first symptoms of pathology will help stabilize the condition of the animal and eliminate pain. In the future, the prognosis is favorable, especially in young animals. The functions of the hind limbs and pelvic organs are fully restored.

Watch the video: Sciatica vs Cauda Equina Syndrome MEDICAL EMERGENCY! (December 2019).