Myelomalacia in Dogs: Costs, Care, & More


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- Updated September 26, 2023

Myelomalacia in Dogs: Costs, Care, & More

Myelomalacia, a debilitating neurological condition affecting dogs, is a grave concern for canine companions and their owners. This ailment, characterized by abnormal growth and compression of the spinal cord, can lead to excruciating pain, loss of mobility, and a diminished quality of life. Dog owners should be aware of several potential causes, symptoms, and treatments for this ailment.

What is Myelomalacia in Dogs?

Myelocamia in dogs is a complex and devastating condition characterized by the progressive softening or necrosis of the spinal cord. This ailment can be traced back to various underlying causes, with intervertebral disc disease, spinal trauma, or vascular insufficiency being the most common culprits. As myelomalacia advances, a series of distressing events within a dog’s neural system is set in motion.

At its core, myelomalacia disrupts the delicate balance of neural communication within the spinal cord. The spinal cord serves as a vital highway for transmitting messages between the brain and the rest of the body. When this cord becomes compromised by softening or necrosis, the signals that facilitate movement, sensation, and bodily function are interrupted. This interruption manifests in many ways, such as muscle weakness, loss of coordination, and even paralysis, depending on the severity and location of the damage. It’s not just the physical aspect; myelomalacia often inflicts excruciating pain as the damaged nerve fibers send distress signals to the brain. Therefore, understanding the intricacies of myelomalacia is crucial in comprehending its profound impact on a dog’s neural system and overall well-being.

dog running

Main Causes Leading to Myelomalacia in Dogs

Various underlying causes can trigger Myelomalacia in dogs, each posing a significant risk to the health of our canine companions. One primary cause of myelomalacia is traumatic injury, often resulting from accidents such as car collisions or falls. The sheer force of impact can lead to spinal cord compression, compromising blood flow and ultimately causing softening or necrosis of the affected spinal segment. Similarly, intervertebral disc disease, a common condition in certain breeds, can contribute to myelomalacia. When these discs degenerate or herniate, they can exert pressure on the spinal cord, leading to tissue damage over time.

Vascular insufficiency also ranks among the key causes of myelomalacia in dogs. This condition occurs when the blood supply to the spinal cord is compromised, typically due to conditions like aortic thromboembolism or arterial blockages. Inadequate blood flow starves the spinal cord of vital oxygen and nutrients, resulting in tissue death. Finally, infections, tumors, and inflammatory disorders affecting the spinal cord can initiate the process of myelomalacia. These conditions can lead to the release of harmful enzymes and inflammatory molecules, further exacerbating the softening and necrosis of the spinal cord tissue. Understanding these diverse causes is pivotal in identifying and addressing myelomalacia in dogs, as it informs both prevention and treatment strategies.

Symptoms Indicating Myelomalacia in Dogs

The symptoms of myelomalacia in dogs can vary in severity and presentation but typically indicate this condition's profound impact on their neural system. One of the most common and noticeable symptoms is muscle weakness, particularly in the limbs associated with the affected spinal cord area. Dogs may struggle to stand or walk, and their movements may appear uncoordinated and shaky. As myelomalacia progresses, this weakness can escalate to full-blown paralysis in the affected limbs, rendering the dog immobile.

Pain is another prominent symptom associated with myelomalacia. Dogs suffering from this condition often experience intense discomfort, manifesting as vocalization, restlessness, or reluctance to move. The pain arises from the damage to the nerve fibers within the spinal cord, which send distress signals to the brain. Additionally, dogs with myelomalacia may exhibit bladder and bowel control changes, leading to incontinence or difficulty in urination and defecation. These symptoms collectively paint a picture of the profound neurological disruption caused by myelomalacia, underscoring the need for prompt veterinary evaluation and intervention to alleviate the suffering and improve the dog’s quality of life.


Breeds Most Prone to Myelomalacia

Certain dog breeds are more prone to myelomalacia than others, primarily due to genetic predispositions and anatomical factors. Breeds with long spines and shorter legs, such as Dachshunds, Corgis, and Basset Hounds, are particularly susceptible to myelomalacia. This vulnerability is attributed mainly to their unique body shapes, where the elongated spine is less stable and more prone to injury or intervertebral disc problems. As a result, these breeds are at a higher risk of experiencing spinal cord compression, which can lead to the development of myelomalacia.

Large and giant breeds like Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, and Irish Wolfhounds are predisposed to myelomalacia. Their sheer size and weight can put added stress on the spinal column, increasing the likelihood of spinal cord trauma.

Additionally, some of these larger breeds may be more prone to vascular issues, which can compromise blood flow to the spinal cord, exacerbating the risk of myelomalacia. While genetic factors play a significant role, owners of these breeds need to be vigilant about preventive measures, such as regular exercise, weight management, and proper handling, to reduce the risk of spinal cord injury and the subsequent development of myelomalacia.

How Much Does Treatment for Myelomalacia in Dogs Cost?

The cost of treating myelomalacia in dogs can vary widely depending on several factors, making it challenging to provide an exact figure. On average, treatment costs for myelomalacia in dogs can range from $2,000 to $7,000, or sometimes even more. However, it’s essential to recognize that various elements can influence the overall expense.

Severity and Location

The extent and location of the spinal cord damage play a significant role in determining treatment costs. More severe cases that require extensive surgical intervention or specialized care are likely to incur higher expenses.

Diagnostic Procedures

The diagnostic process, which may include MRIs, CT scans, blood tests, and consultations with specialists, can add to the overall cost.

Treatment Approach

Treatment options for myelomalacia can range from conservative movement, including pain management and physical therapy, to surgical interventions, such as spinal cord decompression or stabilization. Surgical procedures generally cost more due to the complexity and equipment involved.

Rehabilitation and Follow-Up Care

Rehabilitation and post-operative care, such as physical therapy and medications, can contribute significantly to the overall cost. These ongoing expenses are necessary for the dog’s recovery, though.

Geographical Location

The cost of veterinary care can vary depending on your geographical location, specialized facilities, and expertise availability.

Pet Insurance

Pet insurance can substantially reduce the out-of-pocket expenses for myelomalacia treatment, depending on your policy coverage.

Dog owners must consult with a veterinarian or veterinary specialist to determine the specific treatment plan and associated costs based on their pet’s needs. Discussing financial options and potential insurance coverage can also help alleviate the financial burden of the treatment.


Cost Breakdown

A comprehensive cost breakdown for myelomalacia in dogs typically includes several components. First and foremost, diagnostics play a crucial role in identifying the extent and location of the condition. Diagnostic procedures, such as MRIs, CT scans, consultation fees, and blood tests, can range from $800 to $2,500. These tests are essential for accurate diagnosis and treatment planning.

Once the diagnosis is confirmed, treatment may involve medications to manage pain and inflammation, which can range from $100 to $500 per month. Surgical intervention, when required, is often the costliest component. Surgical procedures to address myelomalacia can range from $3,000 to $7,000 or more. Post-treatment care, which includes rehabilitation, physical therapy, and follow-up visits, can also add to the cost, with monthly expenses ranging from $200 to $600.

Does Pet Insurance Cover Myelomalacia Treatment

Pet insurance coverage for myelomalacia in dogs can vary depending on the provider and your specific policy. In many cases, pet insurance policies cover the treatment of myelomalacia up to certain limits. However, it’s crucial to carefully review your terms and conditions to understand the extent of the coverage and any exclusions.

Some pet insurance policies may have waiting periods before covering certain conditions, so enrolling your dog in a plan early on is essential to ensure coverage is available when needed. Pre-existing conditions are typically not covered by more insurance policies. To make an informed decision, research different pet insurance providers and consider various factors such as out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles, and any potential exclusions.

Alternative Treatments

Alternative treatments for myelomalacia in dogs can be explored when traditional medical interventions are not feasible. One such approach is acupuncture, a therapy that involves the insertion of needles into specific points in the body to stimulate energy flow and promote natural healing.

Another alternative treatment option is physical therapy and rehabilitation. This involves tailored exercises, hydrotherapy, and other techniques to improve muscle strength, coordination, and mobility. Rehabilitation can be especially beneficial for dogs recovering from myelomalacia surgery, helping them regain function and minimizing the risk of complications.

Post-Op Recovery and Care

Post-operative recovery and care are crucial aspects of treating myelomalacia in dogs, especially when surgical intervention is required. After the procedure, the dog will need a structured and supportive care plan. Typically, the dog will be hospitalized initially for observation and pain management. During this period, the veterinary team will monitor vital signs, assess pain levels, and ensure the incision remains clean and infection-free.

Once the dog is discharged, the owner plays a vital role in post-operative care. This includes administering prescribed medications on schedule, often including pain relievers and antibiotics. Strict rest and confinement are typically necessary, limiting the dog’s movement to prevent strain on the healing spinal cord. Physical therapy and rehabilitation may be introduced gradually to improve muscles. Frequent follow-up visits to the veterinarian are essential to monitor the dog’s process, adjust the treatment plan if needed, and address any concerns promptly. Additionally, proper nutrition is crucial for supporting the healing process, and the dog’s diet may need to be adjusted accordingly.


Myelomalacia in dogs is a challenging condition that can significantly impact their neurological health and overall well-being. Early detection and prompt intervention are essential in managing this ailment effectively. Treatment options can provide hope for improved mobility and comfort in affected dogs. Pet owners should also explore pet insurance options to help alleviate the financial burden of treatment.

With proper care, post-operative support, and ongoing veterinary guidance, many dogs can experience a better quality of life despite facing myelomalacia’s challenges.

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