The Symptoms of Atlantoaxial Instability in Dogs

by Naomi Millburn
Atlantoaxial instability often affects Pekingese dogs.

Atlantoaxial instability often affects Pekingese dogs.

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If you observe any irregular positioning of your dog's head, he might have atlantoaxial instability, a rare ailment. Atlantoaxial instability arises due to issues with the cervical vertebrae attaching to each other. It can affect canines of all ages, but is especially prevalent in youngsters. It's also particularly common in smaller breeds, including Yorkshire terriers, Pomeranians and Chihuahuas.

Intense Neck Pain

If your poor pooch seems to be suffering from intense neck pain, then there's a chance that atlantoaxial instability could be the culprit. He also might appear to be hesitant about moving his head. You might notice that he's holding his head in an unusual and rigid manner, too. Neck ache is the most typical symptom of atlantoaxial instability, according to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. For some dogs with the condition, it's the sole symptom, too.

Walking Woes

Although neck pain is a common telltale symptom of atlantoaxial instability, it's far from the only one. Other key symptoms often involve walking. A dog with the condition might fall to the ground frequently. He might not be able to walk at all. Canines with particularly extreme circumstances might even have problems standing up in the first place. Unusually feeble limbs can be a strong indicator of atlantoaxial instability.

Other Possible Symptoms

Atlantoaxial instability can lead to respiratory issues in some dogs, as well. It can cause intense force onto the spinal cord, and problems breathing normally as a result. Respiratory paralysis is a possibility for dogs with atlantoaxial instability. Other possible symptoms are barking difficulties, problems swallowing food and even death. Note that signs of the condition can appear abruptly, although not in all cases. Some cases of atlantoaxial instability show up slowly.

Urgent Veterinary Attention

If you see any possible signs of atlantaoxial instability in your pet, take him to the veterinarian immediately. Some cases of the condition are congenital, while others arise due to severe injury, such as being struck by a moving car. If your pet's atlantoaxial instability is congenital, you'll likely notice clues of the problem by the time he's a year in age, notes the Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists. However, some dogs with congenital atlantoxial instability experience their initial symptoms when they're older. A veterinarian can determine whether your precious pet has the condition. If your dog is diagnosed with it, the vet then can determine the appropriate course of action. Some dogs with the ailment require surgery.

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About the Author

Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.

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