Symptoms of Spina Bifida
By definition, spina bifida is a congenital disorder, meaning that it is present at birth. Spina bifida is not progressive and does not worsen with time. Signs of this condition usually are first noticed when affected puppies try to walk, between one and two weeks of age. Sometimes, dogs with spina bifida never develop observable symptoms.
As mentioned above, some dogs born with spina bifida never show signs of their condition. Owners of dogs that do develop clinical signs may notice one or more of the following signs:
- Rear limb paresis (weakness)
- Slight to moderate incomplete paralysis of one or both hind legs
- Decreased muscle tone (hind end)
- Muscle atrophy (hind end)
- Ataxia (lack of coordination)
- Fecal incontinence
- Urinary incontinence
- Loss of sensation in the perineal area (the region between the tail and the genitalia)
- Decreased anal sphincter tone
- Decreased ability to use the tail
In rare cases, there may be a draining mass on the dog’s back, towards its tail. Other possible signs are dimpling of the skin and/or abnormal direction of hair growth over the affected area of the animal’s spine.
Dogs at Increased Risk
Spina bifida can occur in any dog of any breed or mixed breed and of either sex. However, it is most commonly seen in English Bulldogs (and in Manx cats), which is why a hereditary component to this condition is suspected.