Spinal Cord Disorder Caused by Blocked Blood Vessel in Dogs

Fibrocartilaginous embolic myelopathy or FCE is a condition involving necrosis (cell death) of a region of the spinal cord secondary to infarction (obstruction) of the blood supply. In this condition, an area of the spinal cord is not able to function properly and eventually atrophies as a result of a blockage, or emboli, in the blood vessels of the spinal cord. The cause of this disorder is typically the result of an injury to the spine. The injury may be the result of jumping and landing in the wrong way, vigorous exercise, fighting, or any accident that leads to a spinal injury. The infarction is caused by fibrocartilage, which arises from part of the intervertebral disc (the shock absorbing material located between bones in the spinal column) and enters a spinal artery or vein.

In FCE, a small amount of intervertebral disk material from between the bones of the spine (vertebrae) detaches spontaneously and lodges in a nearby blood vessel. This blocks the blood supply to a section of spinal cord and the associated nerves. The resulting inflammation and nerve damage leads to weakness, incoordination (ataxia) or, often, sudden paralysis.

Highest number of cases occur in large and giant dog breeds between the ages of three and five.

The symptoms appear suddenly and usually follow what appears to be a mild injury or vigorous exercise.

Sudden, severe pain, dog may cry out at time of injury

Pain may subside after few minutes to hours

Paresis (signs of weakness or partial paralysis)


Lack of pain response (after initial pain response)

Dog may stabilize within 12-24 hours

Wobbly, uncoordinated or drunken gait (ataxia)

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