Amort KH, Ondreka N, Rudorf H, et al.
German shepherd dogs are overrepresented in the group of dogs with cauda equina compression syndrome due to degenerative lumbosacral stenosis. A congenital predisposition for early degeneration of the lumbosacral intervertebral disc has been suspected. Our aims were to assess the morphologic appearance of the lumbosacral intervertebral disc and the lumbosacral junction in healthy German shepherd dogs compared to other breeds and to evaluate for an early onset of degenerative changes. The lumbosacral spine of 110 clinically sound German shepherd dogs and 47 healthy dogs of other large breeds was examined using magnetic resonance (MR) imaging. The degeneration of every intervertebral disc was graded using an established classification system. Signal intensity of the entire lumbosacral disc and the nucleus pulposus was determined independently. Lumbosacral malalignment was assessed according to a previously described method. The findings for the German shepherd dogs were compared to those of the other breeds. Although most dogs were younger than 18 months at the date of examination, significantly higher grades of degeneration were detected for the lumbosacral intervertebral disc of German shepherd dogs (P < 0.003). Degeneration of the lumbosacral intervertebral disc was independent from findings in the other lumbar discs. We conclude that the German shepherd dog has a predisposition for degenerative changes in the lumbosacral intervertebral disc.