Narrowing of Vertebral Canal in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

Narrowing of vertebral canal — or lumbosacral syndrome — in dogs occurs when some of the nerve roots in the spine become compressed. Technically, the condition is also known as lumbosacral stenosis and cauda equina syndrome (CES) in dogs. Whatever moniker you prefer, it’s important to note that this condition gets progressively worse over time.

Unfortunately, lumbosacral syndrome is common in canines. Also, certain breeds — including German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Boxers — seem to develop the condition more often than others.


If you see the signs of this condition in your dog, get to a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Until then, here’s what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for the condition.

Symptoms of narrowing of vertebral canal in dogs

Lumbosacral syndrome or lumbosacral stenosis produce a number of symptoms in canines. Be aware of signs indicating your dog is in pain. In the event that your pooch is experiencing narrowing of the vertebral canal, some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Back pain
  • Hind leg pain
  • Balance problems
  • Bad posture
  • Weak tail
  • Muscle wasting
  • Incontinence
  • Lameness

Causes of narrowing of vertebral canal in dogs

Beagle dog running through field, potentially while having lumbosacral syndrome or cauda equina syndrome.
(Photo Credit: Tetiana Garkusha / Getty Images)

The cause of the condition can often be congenital. This means that a dog is born with it. For example, the following breeds seem most predisposed to the condition:

Additionally, small and middle-sized dogs seem to develop the condition more often than usual.

Moreover, the following factors can contribute to the condition:

  • Infections
  • Trauma or spinal injury
  • Arthritis
  • Inflammation
  • Medication side effect
  • Neoplasia

Treatments for narrowing of vertebral canal in dogs

Firstly, your vet will ask about your dog’s symptoms to determine your pup’s risk for cauda equina syndrome. Secondly, your vet will ask about your dog’s full medical history. This will include breed-specific problems. Thirdly, your vet will carry out a full physical examination. Blood and urine tests will also be taken. Ultimately, imaging techniques can diagnose the condition. For example, your vet might suggest an MRI or a CT scan.

In many cases, a period of bed rest — along with anti-inflammatory medication — will be prescribed. As always, if your vet prescribes your dog any medicine, make sure to stick to the correct dose and frequency instructions. Also, complete the full course of the prescription.

Notably, surgery is a common course of treatment. Such procedures can help to reduce the pressure on the roots of the nerves. If this is the route pursued, your dog will require a quiet, calm environment in which to recover once they are back home. In addition, your pup’s daily exercise regime will initially need to be significantly reduced to ensure they can properly heal. Ask your vet to assist in formulating a safe exercise routine to aid in your dog’s recovery.

Finally, making sure that your dog is not overweight is beneficial to the recovery process. It’s advisable to read more about healthy eating tips for your dog to prevent excess weight gain. In particular, consider transitioning your pooch to a more nutritious diet with less processed ingredients.

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