By Ashley DeWees, DVM
Lumbosacral stenosis (LS) is a condition in which the space between the last lumbar vertebra and the sacrum is narrowed, resulting in pinching or compression of the nerve roots. This is a frequent problem in geriatric greyhounds resulting in weakness of the hind limbs, knuckling, shuffling, difficulties rising from laying down and pain. Severe cases can also have urinary and fecal incontinence.
LS can be misdiagnosed as hip dysplasia as both diseases can show pain when the hip area is manipulated. Hip dysplasia is a relatively rare condition in greyhounds and can only be diagnosed by taking radiographs. On physical examination, LS is suspected if the animal exhibits pain when the actual lumbosacral joint is palpated. Radiographs taken of dogs with LS can be normal, although some dogs will have evidence of arthritis at the lumbosacral joint. A definitive diagnosis can be made with special contrast radiographs taken at a referral clinic (ie: myelogram, CT, MRI) however most owners rarely go to this extent.
Currently there are two methods of treatment for LS disease. Surgical correction of the nerve compression is possible, however since most affected dogs are geriatric, few owners are interested in this option. Medical management can be difficult, as many of the nonsteroidal medications (Rimadyl, Deramaxx) do not alleviate the pain. There is, however, anecdotal information indicating that a local, long-acting injection of a steroid has helped some dogs. This technique involves an injection into the actual lumbosacral joint and may alleviate symptoms for 4-12 months. Another option is an oral medication called Tramadol (Ultram), an opioid-like drug, that can be used either alone or in conjunction with the injection.