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  Spina Bifida

Common names or abbreviations:

bulletSpina bifida

Description or definition:


Spina bifida is a developmental abnormality where some vertebrae are malformed and do not fully cover the spinal cord, leaving it exposed to injury.  The abnormalities can range in severity from slight malformation of only a small part of one vertebra – to absence of most of the vertebral arch on multiple vertebrae.  Spina bifida can occur anywhere in the spinal column, but it is seen most often in the lower back region. 

This condition is congenital (present at birth), and both genetic and environmental factors (toxins, nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy) are thought to play a part in the development of this condition. 



The symptoms depend on the severity of the condition.  In mild cases, the dog may not have any observable medical problems at all.  However, with more severe defects there will be clinical signs that are associated with the specific area of the spinal cord that is affected.  Symptoms may vary from hind end weakness and lack of coordination to paralysis and urinary and fecal incontinence.  With a very severe defect, signs are generally evident as soon as the puppy starts to walk. 



Radiographs (X-ray) or more advanced imaging techniques (MRI, CT, etc.).


Surgery may be helpful for mildly affected animals. Dogs with hind end weakness may benefit from hind end support when standing and/or walking and/or special products to help the owner manage  incontinence.

Links to sites about this disease:











This summary provided by:


Jessica S


Wildfire Kennel



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All rights reserved. Revised: January 2008

The information on this website was written by ISSR breeders and other concerned individuals, however we are are NOT veterinarians. This information is being provided as a general overview, from information we were able to find about each disease through our own research. These summaries are not intended to be relied upon as medical or veterinary advice, nor do we consider ourselves experts in the veterinary field or in any of these conditions. While we do our best to provide the most up to date information, new research is constantly being done on these diseases. We recommend that you do further study and talk to your veterinarian on any topics you see here, as we cannot guarantee that the information posted here is the most current information available.  This site was originally designed and maintained by Debbie Knatz.