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Fibrocartilaginous Embolus in Schnauzers

A recent report in the AAHA Journal indicates that a fibrocartilaginous embolus (FCE) is a common cause of rear limb paralysis in Schnauzers. The exact cause of FCE is still unknown but current theories focus on material being pushed from the intervertebral disc into the vertebral sinus system, thereby creating an embolic episode in the spinal cord.

FCE is usually thought of as a “big dog” disease, but this report shows that Schnauzers are over represented in having FCE episodes. This report showed that FCE episodes have unique presentations compared to herniated discs. Schnauzers with FCE typically are younger (7.4 years versus 10.4 years) than dogs with disc herniation, are more likely to have asymmetrical neurologic deficits, and usually do not show progression of clinical signs after 24 hours from onset.

Differentiation between an FCE and a disc herniation is usually done with a myelogram. Long-term survival rates for Schnauzers with FCE are significantly higher than large breed dogs with FCE. Treatment is supportive.