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Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Melan-collie wobbles

I really need some advice and hope that this scenario is known to someone as I don’t know who else to contact.

We have a Border Collie bitch, rescue dog approx 12 years old. She has been fed on the raw food diet since we got her and have had very few problems with her health-wise.

In October I noticed a slight ‘hop’ in her gait on her back left leg. We took her to the vet but they could not find anything wrong and just advised us to ‘rest’ her for a week or so. The ‘hop’ did not go away and by mid-November the leg was being raised quite significantly off the ground when she was walking but was not noticeable when she ran. By the end of November it was really bad and she was beginning to fall over, when presumably, her legs did not touch the ground in the right order and her front legs just buckled under her and she did not have enough strength in her back legs to get up. The ability to run or move fast had ceased. We took her back to the vets who did a thorough examination but again could not find anything wrong.

She had suffered from hair loss at the beginning of the year and we had been given steroid cream for her but the hair had not grown back, so the vet decided to draw a blood sample and test for any thyroid problems. The results came back negative. The vet has tried her on Metacam (even though there is no indication of her having arthritis) but that made no improvement, he has also tried PLT (prednoleucotropin) but that just seems to have upset her stomach and given her very runny and smelly poos. The symptoms have got worst and I now think that the other back leg is showing the same signs. She is falling down quite often and whines and pants a lot, though I do not feel that this is with pain more with discomfort or confusion. The vet is at a loss as to what the problem is. I have now started her on a course of acupuncture, though this vet also does not know what the problem might be. We thought it might be ‘Wobblers Syndrome’ but neither vets think that it is.

Is there anyone who has experienced this type of problem with their dog before? We desperately want to try and find out what the problem is and how to improve it. Missy has always been an ‘independent’ and ‘free spirited’ dog (her nickname is Missy the Monster Dog), and to see her now falling down and unable to wee and poo properly is heart breaking, and she gets very agitated when there is no-one around (previously she rarely liked to be in the same room as anyone), and barks for us to go to her, but even her barks are not the way she used to bark to attract out attention.

ANY suggestions or help would be appreciated more than you can know.

Janine Lodge, by email

Alison Logan, vet, advises...

Having been brought up with Border Collies, I know just how active they are, often well in to old age, so it must be heart-breaking to see Missy like this.

Wobblers syndrome, or cervical spondylopathy, is a condition more usually associated with breeds such as the Dobermann and Great Dane, and can manifest much as you describe. A malformation in the cervical or neck vertebrae can cause variable abnormal pressure on the spinal cord, with consequences for the nerves leaving the spinal cord in that area.

There are, however, other possible causes of the signs you describe which do sound neurological, suggesting something going on affecting the nerves. This could be why there was a lack of improvement when given meloxicam (Metacam, Boehringer Ingelheim), and then PLT (Novartis Animal Health UK Ltd) . Further investigation is needed if a diagnosis is to be reached, and in particular imaging (radiography, MRI scan).

They are such an intelligent breed that the signs of separation anxiety she is showing may reflect the confusion and frustration she is experiencing at not being able to move around as easily as in the past. Alternatively, given that she is approximately 12 years old, this may be the early signs of dementia as it is possible for more than one condition to manifest at a time, or it could conceivably all be linked if there are changes taking place within the brain.

I would therefore go back to your vet for him to examine Missy again for any change or progression in her condition, and to decide on the next course of action. If there is any treatment feasible to help her, then the sooner it is identified and initiated the better, for Missy’s sake.


  1. Not something I could say we'd got a "Collie answer" for I'm afraid. I'm sure the Vets have considered everything - nerve damage, joint issue or other limb problem and many other potential causes.

    Is it perhaps linked in some way to the hair loss/steriod cream.

    The only course of action I can suggest is to seek a second opinion from a different practice especially as there seem to be other symptoms now coming to light.

    Hope you find an answer, best wishes

    Ben Wilkes

  2. Has she had an xray or MRI, to rule out any problems with spine etc.

    If your vet has no idea then you need to be referred to a specialist centre that maybe deals with nervous system disorders

  3. I have a doberman with wobblers and you are correct it doesn't sound correct. have you seen a chiropractor??

  4. Has the vet tested for Lymes disease? Caught from a tick bite, this can produce arthritic symptoms, which I guess could get worse if untreated.

  5. Have you had her hips x-rayed; and/or discussed hydrotherapy and/or TTouch with your vet, or a TTouch practitioner?

  6. Addisones? Any mucus in the eyes? I would have the blood test if only to eliminate it. Symptoms can be very varied - often present like food poisoning but can present with falling down/unable to get on sofa etc. Panting however can be a pain indicator.

  7. Similar to what my last collie was diagonised with : Vestibular disease. First signs are that back legs go than difficulty rising. Apparently part of the brain dies as in a stroke. Latter symptoms include circling and being very disorientated. Once diagnosed prognosis is not good. Maybe a few months. Collies are prone to this.My advice is research on internet as every case is different. My collie was only 13. My previous one was 17 when diagonised, so as you can see it differs. it is possibly age related.

  8. Vestibular is not a death sentence if this happened to be the case. Usually happens in older dogs, and is caused by an inner ear problem, not part of the brain dying, and is not like a human stroke. Apart from symptoms such as difficulty rising or walking and being a bit lopsided, you can also get an eye flicker, not like blinking though. Also very often a head tilt accompanies this.

    Years ago, my Golden Retriever suddenly developed Vestibular during the night, and was unable to walk for a number days. The vet came out and treated him with anti-biotics and anti-inflamatry medication, and gradually after a couple of weeks he started to pick up again, and he was left with just a bit of a head tilt, which eventually diseappered. I had another 2 1/2 years with him in good health.

    I would say to anybody that has a dog diagnosed with Vestibular Syndrome, that it is not a death sentence, and can be treated with usually good results. Sometimes dogs do get another bout, but not always.

  9. Sorry but I don't agree with the above post about Vestibular Syndrome. This is a condition caused by an inner ear problem, not part of the brain dying. Very often accompanied by a head tilt, and eye flicker and walking round in a tilting one sided manner. It does not have to be the end for your dog if it should develop this condition, and many dog's, mine included went on to make a very good recovery from this, even though he was off his legs for nearly two weeks. He lioved for another 2 1/2 years. Treatment can be very effective, and if this is the case with the dog above, then the vet should be able to help. Of course not every dog recovers from this, depending on how elderly they are and what sort of health they were in beforehand.