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Neoplasia of the Spinal Column and Cord

By William B. Thomas, DVM, MS, DACVIM (Neurology), Professor, Neurology and Neurosurgery, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, University of Tennessee

In dogs, neoplasms commonly affecting the spinal cord include osteosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, meningioma, nerve sheath tumor, and metastatic neoplasia. A tumor resembling nephroblastoma is seen in young dogs (5–36 mo of age), with German Shepherds affected most commonly. This tumor is consistently located within the dura mater between T10 and L2, causing progressive paraparesis. Diagnosis of spinal neoplasia is based on radiography, myelography, CT or MRI, and surgical biopsy. Surgical excision is possible in some cases, but in general, prognosis is poor.

In cats, lymphoma is the most common neoplasia to affect the spinal cord. Adult cats of any age can be affected. There is an acute or slowly progressive onset of signs referable to a focal, often painful, lesion of the spinal cord. Approximately 85% of affected cats have positive test results for feline leukemia virus (see Feline Leukemia Virus and Related Diseases), and many have leukemic bone marrow. Myelography, CT, or MRI shows extradural compression. Treatment consists of combination chemotherapy, such as prednisone, vincristine, and cyclophosphamide. Remission is possible in many cases, but longterm prognosis is poor.

In cattle, lymphosarcoma may develop in the epidural space at any level, causing spinal cord compression. Often, there is an acute onset of paraparesis or recumbency. Usually, there is other evidence of bovine leukosis (see Bovine Leukosis). Definitive diagnosis is based on histopathologic examination.

Neoplasia is a rare cause of spinal cord disease in horses, pigs, sheep, and goats.

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