Pet Talk: Wobbler Syndrome

Cervical Spondylomyelopathy, also known as wobbler syndrome, is a neurological condition in dogs that affects their cervical spine, or neck region. A compression of the spinal cord and nerve roots, wobbler syndrome gets its name from the characteristic “wobbly” walk that affected dogs typically display from the disease.

“There are two forms of cervical spondylomyelopathy,” said Dr. Megan Steele, a veterinary resident at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “There is a disc-associated form that causes ventral spinal cord compression and dorsal, lateral bone and joint proliferation causing dorsolateral spinal cord compression.”

Wobbler syndrome is typically a progressive disease most commonly found in larger dog breeds, such as Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes and Mastiffs.

“Symptoms can vary widely from mild neck pain to an inability to walk in all four limbs,” said Dr. Steele. “Often, pelvic limb weakness and ataxia, or weakness, is more severe than in the thoracic limbs.  A classic, two-engine gait is seen in dogs with low cervical lesions causing a short, choppy gait in the thoracic limbs and a long, sweeping gait in the pelvic limbs.”

Other symptoms often include weakness, difficulty getting up from a lying position, and possible muscle loss. Clinical signs are typically slow and gradual in onset, though acute worsening can occur. If your dog appears to show signs of any of these, especially difficulty walking or any unusual neck pains, a trip to the veterinarian for a diagnosis is a recommended.

In order to properly diagnosis your dog for wobbler syndrome, your veterinarian may perform advanced imaging such as radiographs, computed tomotherapy (CT) and myelographs to characterize the degree of spinal compression. “A definitive diagnosis is best made from an MRI as this gives us the best information of what is happening to the spinal cord itself, a soft tissue structure,” said Dr. Steele.

Treatment for wobbler syndrome, like for many other disorders, is greatly dependent on the location and severity of the problem. Cervical surgical procedures are typically the recommended treatment option for the best chance of improvement, but as with any surgery, there is always a risk of complications. For affected dogs in which surgery is not appropriate, medical management is another reliable treatment option.

Medical management is a viable treatment option in dogs with mild clinical signs or dogs with spinal cord compression in multiple locations, or that have comorbidities making them poor surgical candidates. Medically treated dogs need to have restricted activity for at least two months, along with close observation and any other recommended therapy. The goals of medical management are to provide adequate pain control and hopefully delay or prevent disease worsening.

“There will be lifestyle changes, such as walking with a harness instead of a neck lead, minimizing rough play, and restriction of jumping and using stairs, that may need to be made,” said Dr. Steele. “Implementing these lifestyle changes, along with rehab and pain management, can have a success rate of around 50 percent.”

Dogs with progressive signs that are not responding to medical management are typically advised to undergo surgery. “Surgical success is around 80 percent and with severely affected animals is the treatment of choice,” said Dr. Steele. “The type and location of disease dictates the type of surgical procedure recommended.  Some common procedures we perform include dorsal laminectomies, ventral slots and occasionally distraction fusion.”

Even after both surgery and medical management, some dogs with wobbler syndrome may never walk normally again. However, when combined with physical therapy and post-operative care, these treatments provide a considerable chance of improving your best friend’s overall quality of life.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed online at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

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MADACC Announces an EMPTY THE SHELTER Adoption Event October 4th and 5th! All Adoption Fees Waived for All Available Dogs and Cats.

Milwaukee, September 16, 2014:  Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC), Wisconsin’s largest open-admission animal shelter, announced today that adoption fees for all dogs and cats will be waived the weekend of October 4 through 5 during MADACC’s first Empty the Shelter Adoption Weekend.

MADACC, which faces constant capacity challenges during the warmer months, is asking the community to help find homes for every adoptable dog and cat that was not reclaimed by their family and is now available for adoption during the two-day special event in an effort to create space for the more than 1,200 lost, unwanted and abandoned dogs expected to enter the shelter’s care throughout the month of October.

“Our goal this weekend is to find wonderful homes for each and every healthy, adoptable dog and cat in our facility,” said Karen Sparapani, executive director for MADACC. “If you have been thinking about adding a feline or canine companion to your home, now is the time! Not only will your adoption fee be waived, but you will find a new best friend and save a life.”

MADACC is able to hold this event after receiving a $15,000 grant from the ASPCA specifically to be used for an impactful adoption event. These funds will be used to sterilize, vaccinate and microchip around 150 animals so that they will be able to go home the day they are adopted into new families.

“When you adopt a companion from our facility, you’re saving a life and taking home a dog or cat that has already received all the basic veterinary services completed,” Sparapani continued. “It is so important to our community to have as many animals as possible spayed and neutered, and up to date on important vaccines that prevent parvovirus, distemper and rabies as well as having a microchip to ensure that if your animal is ever lost, we can quickly reunite your animal with you. Choosing to adopt a shelter animal is not only beneficial for the new pet parent or family, it also helps fight pet overpopulation in our community and, in turn, helps save more lives.”

More than 120 cats and 30 dogs will be available for adoption at MADACC’s two day adoption event. There will be kittens, cats and dogs from 5 months old and up available for potential adopters to choose from. Waived adoption fees include spay/neuter surgery, microchip, and up-to-date vaccines. A $12 license fee will apply for all Milwaukee County residents. Adopters must complete in-person adoption counseling.

In order to expedite the process and cut down on wait times, MADACC is encouraging interested adopters to complete a free and non-binding adoption application for pre-approval ahead of the event.  You can find the adoption application and more information on their website at or call 414-649-8640.


MADACC currently rescues and assures safe, temporary shelter, veterinary and humane care for nearly 13,000 stray, unwanted, abandoned, mistreated and injured animals each year — more than any other animal control shelter in Wisconsin.  MADACCprovides a central location for owners to find and recover their lost pets at 3839 W. Burnham St. in West Milwaukee and is open seven days a week, including evening hours on weekdays.  MADACC rescues strays and removes dangerous animals from public areas providing effective animal control services by active enforcement of Wisconsin State Statues pertaining to animal welfare. For more information call (414)649-8640 or visit the MADACC website at MADACC is open to the public 7 days a week.


Pet Lovers can enter Justin Silver’s #DogsDreamLife Video Contest Now!

NEW YORK (SEPTEMBER 16, 2014) – Well-known dog trainer and host of Dogs in the City, Justin Silver has authored The Language of Dogs, on sale September 23rd for $24.99 from Gallery Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster). With practical steps and his characteristic humor, the book shares Justin’s unique training methods and advice on how to “speak dog.” Along with the book release is an opportunity to win prizes via a video contest called #DogsDreamLife. The first place winner, to be announced on October 6, 2014, receives a $399 GoPro Camera (Hero3 +Black), plus a 40-minute Skype training session with Justin and an autographed copy of The Language of Dogs. The contest will be held from September 15 through September 30, 2014.

For those who know Justin from Dogs in the City, and for pet parents new to Justin’s training philosophy, The Language of Dogs stresses that most dogs are not willingly disobedient. “It’s the owners who need to learn to speak their dogs’ language,” says Justin. “Dogs are eager to please, and sometimes mistake their actions for what they think are the right behaviors.” His advice is: “Don’t tell your dog what you don’t want. Instead, tell them what you do want.”

Staying true to his roots as a standup comedian, Justin explains, “The book intends to be humorous and entertaining. But in the end, its focus is how both dog and owner can enjoy the training process and understand one another better.”

The #DogsDreamLife contest, associated with the book launch, opens on September 15, 2014, and pet parents are asked to submit a video of up to 15 seconds, showing their dogs living their “dream day.” Contest rules and how-to-enter instructions can be found at Points are earned as videos are shared on social media, with Justin selecting first, second and third prize winners. Purchases of the book, as indicated in the rules for entry, count for five extra points.

The prizes are:

First: $399 GoPro Camera (Hero3 +Black), plus a 40-minute Skype training session with Justin and an autographed copy of The Language of Dogs.

Second: $200 Petco Gift Card, a 20-minute Skype training session with Justin, and an autographed copy of The Language of Dogs.

Third: 20-minute Skype training session with Justin and an autographed copy of The Language of Dogs.

The Language of Dogs is available for pre-order wherever books are sold.  For more information, please visit or To schedule an interview with Justin, please contact Shannon Stevens at Fetching Communications at or 631.569.2285.

About Justin Silver

Justin Silver gained fame as a dog trainer when he became the star of the popular 2012 reality show, Dogs in the City, on CBS. With a sense of humor and a unique understanding of canine behavior, he made a positive impact on the dogs and pet parents in the series. A native New Yorker, Justin now lives in Los Angeles, and is the founder of The Language of Dogs, a full-service pet care company he runs with business partner and co-author Dave Donnenfeld, which operates in both New York and Los Angeles. He is also the founder of the charity “Funny For Fido.” Justin blogs and posts regularly to pet owners around the world, at Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. More information is at

About Simon & Schuster

Simon & Schuster, a part of CBS Corporation, is a global leader in the field of general interest publishing, dedicated to providing the best in fiction and nonfiction to consumers of all ages, across all printed, electronic, and audio formats. Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, is the publisher of The Language of Dogs.

The #DogsDreamLife contest is not sponsored, endorsed or administered by Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Join Me and My Dog Campaign to Bring People and Pets #TogetherAgainstRabies

Support Me and My Dog campaign by sending us your Selfie

Campaign calls for dog lovers to come together to beat world’s most fatal disease

For more information on the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, click here

17 September 2014, Geneva, Switzerland – The Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) today launches a new awareness-raising campaign, Me and My Dog, to bring attention to the world’s most fatal, and one of the most neglected, diseases.

Me and My Dog launches with the support of a number of celebrities including the internationally-acclaimed novelist Alexander McCall-Smith, the internationally-renowned entertainer Samantha Fox and the academy award nominated actor Peter McDonald. Members of the public are invited to support GARC’s call for dog vaccinations as the most effective and humane way of controlling the disease.
Despite being preventable, rabies kills around 70,000 people every year, many of whom die through a lack of access to lifesaving medical treatment. The number of dogs that die as a result of the disease, or as a result of culls aimed at controlling dog populations, is greater still.
Dog lovers are asked to support the campaign by sending in a selfie of themselves with their dog or dogs along with a message describing what their relationship means to them. All pictures will be uploaded and shared here in the run-up to World Rabies Day, September 28. These selfies will help raise awareness to the fact that rabies is a human and animal tragedy that can end if we work #TogetherAgainstRabies.
“Rabies is the world’s deadliest disease, with a human fatality rate of nearly 100%. But with the right kind of collaboration between human and animal health authorities, it could be brought under control. This is what GARC strives for and dog lovers can help us by sending in their selfie and showing the world that we are #TogetherAgainstRabies,” said Dr. Louis Nel,Chief Executive Officer, GARC.


Wisconsin Humane Society #1 in Milwaukee, as rated by Charity Navigator, nation’s premier charity watchdog group

MILWAUKEE – The Wisconsin Humane Society’s sound fiscal management practices and commitment to accountability and transparency have earned it a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator.  Of twelve charities in Milwaukee with this distinction, the Wisconsin Humane Society (WHS) achieved the highest numerical score – 96.34 points out of a possible 100. Of 124 charities in Wisconsin evaluated by Charity Navigator, only 34 have a four-star rating.

“It’s an honor to be in the company of so many wonderful four-star charities in Milwaukee,” said Anne Reed. “Our rating demonstrates to our supporters that our fiduciary and governance responsibilities are of the utmost importance to our board and staff members. We work tirelessly to create a more humane community for animals, of which our donors can be deeply proud to support.”

“Our staff work hard to honor each and every dollar we earn, and our incredible volunteers are major contributors in keeping our expenses down,” said Reed. “The dedication of our 1,400 volunteers is nothing short of astonishing; they work in every single department at all three campuses, doing everything from rescuing injured ducklings to administering medical treatments.”

 About the Wisconsin Humane Society

The Wisconsin Humane Society (WHS) is the oldest and largest animal shelter in Wisconsin.  It was founded in 1879 and operates shelters in Milwaukee, Ozaukee and Racine Counties.  The organization offers adoption services, educational programming, veterinary resources for animals from low-income households, retail stores, volunteer programs and dog training classes. The Milwaukee shelter also houses the state’s largest Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.  The organization recently announced plans to open Milwaukee’s first high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter clinic in June 2015.

About Charity Navigator

Since 2002, using data-driven analysis, Charity Navigator has awarded only the most fiscally responsible organizations a four-star rating. In 2011, Charity Navigator added a second dimension of Accountability and Transparency (A&T) to its rating methodology, and now reviews 17 governance and ethical practices as well as measures of openness, providing information on its website for each of the charities it evaluates.  The A&T metrics, which account for 50 percent of a charity’s overall rating, reveal which charities have “best practices” that minimize the chance of unethical activities and whether they freely share basic information about their organization with their donors and other stakeholders.


Pet Talk: Cat Scratch Fever

Cat scratch fever, or cat scratch disease (CSD), is a bacterial infection caused by Bartonella henselae. This disease is most commonly transmitted from infected cats to humans by way of biting or scratching, although it can also spread from the saliva of an infected cat getting into an open wound on your body.

Bartonella henselae is the actual bacteria causing cat scratch fever,” said Dr. Audrey Cook, associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “This is a bacterium that likes to live inside red blood cells and is very hard to culture using usual methods.”

It is difficult to tell whether your cat is a carrier of Bartonella henselae, as the cats themselves do not show any signs of illness from the bacteria. Regardless, a large percentage of cats carry this bacterium at some point in their lives, most commonly when they are kittens.

“As the bacterium is adapted to live in cats, they do not become ill, but can harbor the infection for prolonged periods,” said Dr. Cook. “It is usually spread from cat to cat by fleas, and though other insect vectors may play a role, fleas seem to be the most important vector.”

Cat scratch fever is usually not a serious illness in people with normal immune systems, and generally resolves on its own without specific treatment. Your doctor may perform a physical examination or blood test to determine whether you’ve been infected, and antibiotics may be prescribed if necessary.

“Clinical disease is very variable, and depends on the immune system of the person,” said Dr. Cook. “People are vulnerable to problems if they are on immunosuppressive drugs, have cancer, AIDS or are on chemotherapy.”

Some symptoms you can expect with cat scratch fever may include swollen lymph nodes, chills, vomiting, fever and fatigue. The best way to prevent cat scratch disease is to avoid situations in which you might be bitten or scratched by a cat. Don’t play roughly with a cat, and don’t force your attentions on a cat that clearly does not welcome them. It is also important not to allow a cat to lick an open sore or scratch on your skin.

If you are bitten or scratched by a cat, wash the affected area well with soap and water and contact your healthcare provider. Even if the cat is not carrying Bartonella, a cat bite injury can cause major problems and prompt treatment is necessary. In addition to avoiding rough play, keeping your cats indoors as well as administering anti-flea medication can help reduce the risk of them contracting Bartonella henselae, which in turn lowers your chance of catching cat scratch fever.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed online at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to 

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Pet-Talk: National Preparedness Month

With September being National Preparedness month, it is important to not only prepare the people in our family for when disaster strikes, but also our pets as well. When creating a proper evacuation plan, we must remember to include the needs of our pets along with our own.

An important step in preparing for disasters is to have an evacuation kit for your family and your pets ready at all times.

Some things you may include in your pet’s evacuation kit would be plenty of food and water, any medication that your pets are on, their medical records and a picture of your pet. There is also a preparedness plan available on the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences website ( that may be used as a guide to help you plan exactly what to bring.

“Depending on the disaster, families may be away from their homes from a few days to a few weeks,” said Dr. Deb Zoran, professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences and Medical Operations Director for the Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team. “At a minimum, people should prepare to take at least three days worth of food from the pet’s current diet, water, and medications for their pets with them. Photos of the family with the pets and any veterinary records are important both for sheltering of the pet at an evacuation site as well as reunifying with pets when returning home.”

Along with proper medication and plenty of food and water, it is also a good idea to include blankets and other comforting items to put your pet at ease in the case of an emergency situation. Also include litter boxes for cats with litter, cleaning supplies and paper towels, and collars with their tags, or some other form of identification.

Pets can’t communicate the anxiety and fear they feel during a disaster, so it’s important to watch your pets for signs of anxiety in order to help calm them. When evacuating with your pets, have a secure carrier, leash, or harness to keep them from running off in panic.

“Small toys and appropriate sized carriers and crates may help to reduce the anxiety and stress that pets may feel during an evacuation,” said Zoran. “Adding these few items to a ‘go bag’ or ‘go box’ that you have ready to take in the event of an evacuation makes sure nothing important is left behind.”

The most important rule of thumb is never to leave your pets behind. They most likely will not be able to survive on their own, and it will be difficult to find them when you return. To make evacuating with your pet easier, checklists and informational brochures also may be found at, or ask your local veterinarian for suggestions.

“The important thing to remember is if at all possible, take your pets with you if you have to evacuate,” said Zoran. “If it’s not possible, plan ahead and make arrangements to get them out of harm’s way. Taking a little bit of time in advance to create an appropriate plan for your family and your pets can save lives.”

Though it may seem unnecessary right now, you’ll be thankful that your family and pets are well prepared for if disaster does strike.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

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