• Open Access

Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Dogs with Neurologic Impairment Due to Acute Thoracic and Lumbar Intervertebral Disk Herniation


Corresponding author: Dr Jonathan M. Levine, DVM, DACVIM, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, Texas A&M University, 4474 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843; e-mail: jlevine@cvm.tamu.edu.


Background: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a correlate to physical examination in various myelopathies and a predictor of functional outcome.

Objectives: To describe associations among MRI features, neurological dysfunction before MRI, and functional outcome in dogs with disk herniation.

Animals: One hundred and fifty-nine dogs with acute thoracolumbar disk herniation.

Methods: Retrospective case series. Signalment, initial neurological function as assessed by a modified Frankel score (MFS), and ambulatory outcome at hospital discharge and >3 months (long-term) follow-up were recorded from medical records and telephone interview of owners. Associations were estimated between these parameters and MRI signal and morphometric data.

Results: Dogs with intramedullary T2W hyperintensity had more severe pre-MRI MFS (median 2, range 0–4) and lower ambulatory proportion at long-term follow-up (0.76) than those dogs lacking hyperintensity (median MFS 3, range 0–5; ambulatory proportion, 0.93) (P=.001 and .013, respectively). Each unit of T2W length ratio was associated with a 1.9 times lower odds of long-term ambulation when adjusted for pre-MRI MFS (95% confidence interval 1.0–3.52, P=.05). Dogs with a compressive length ratio >1.31 (which was the median ratio within this population) had more severe pre-MRI MFS (median 3, range 0–5) compared with those with ratios ≤1.31 (median MFS 3, range 0–4; P=.006).

Conclusions and Clinical Importance: MRI features were associated with initial injury severity in dogs with thoracolumbar disk herniation. Based on results of this study, the T2W length ratio and presence of T2W intramedullary hyperintensity appear to be predictive of long-term ambulatory status.