A myelogram is an anatomical test, consisting of an X-ray examination of an animal’s spinal cord. This test is used to differentiate and locate several types of spinal cord injuries and disorders.
Since the spinal cord cannot be seen with an ordinary x-ray, then a special dye is injected into the dural sac, which is the bag surrounding the spinal cord. The injection is usually done in the neck or lower back area. Before the dye is injected, a spinal fluid sample is collected from the dog or cat and sent to the laboratory for analysis. Once the veterinarian injects the dye, the spinal cord outline becomes distinct and allows the doctor and surgeon to detect any masses compressing the cord, or any swelling of the cord.
The myelogram surgical procedure is very delicate and requires training to be performed correctly. Therefore, it should only be performed by a veterinary surgeon. The use of general anesthesia is necessary to keep the patient still during the surgical procedure.
How does it work?
This test is recommended when a dog or cat is presenting signs of a spinal problem or spinal cord injuries, such as pain in the neck or back, or difficulty walking. Some of the diagnosis that can be made with a myelogram include slipped discs, ruptured or herniated discs, spinal fractures, spinal cord and nerve root tumors. When this surgical procedure is performed, the surgeon will know the exact location on which he needs to operate.
Before undergoing the surgical procedure, your pet will be subjected to a series of tests, including blood work, a neurological examination, and possibly a chest radiograph in cases where lung cancer may be present. Before the myelogram, an intravenous catheter will be inserted, and your pet will then be anesthetized, using a safe anesthesia, such as a gas. Once the dog or cat is anesthetized, several spinal x-rays will be taken and examined for any problems.
Once the x-rays have been taken, the injection of the dye takes place. The neck or lower back area will be shaved and cleaned with antiseptics, and a needle will be inserted between two spinal vertebrae until spinal fluid drips out. Once that happens, the dye is injected, where it will flow through the spinal fluid, outlining most of the spinal cord. This allows spinal x-rays to be taken and studied for any indication of any abnormalities.
Will my pet experience any pain?
Your pet will not feel any pain or discomfort during the procedure, as they will be under general anesthesia. However, they might experience some pain during the recovery period, especially the first two to three days post-surgery.
To know if your dog is in pain, look out for crying, grimacing, panting and restlessness. Pain can usually be treated with anti-pain narcotics, anti-inflammatories and cold packs.
It might be a bit more complicated to tell if your cat is in pain, as they usually don’t vocalize as much as dogs. However, you can be alert for biting when you get close to the surgical site, loss of appetite, growling, and hiding. They can be treated with pain medication or anti-inflammatories.
Myelogram Side Effects
The most common side effect experienced is from the anesthesia, and the complications are usually straightforward and treatable. However, there is a risk of anesthetic death. This risk is now minimal as modern anesthetic protocols are in place and monitoring devices are used during the surgical procedure.
Other side effects may include a temporary loss of breathing, allergic reaction, spinal cord inflammation or damage and seizures. Most of the side effects are transient and not fatal.
On the days following the surgery, your pet might experience trouble walking, especially if a walking difficulty was present before the myelogram. This problem usually dissipates over time, but it can be permanent in some rare cases.
The Arkansas Veterinary Surgery Center is a regional referral surgery center for orthopedic surgery on dogs, cats, and some exotic species. We are part of South County Animal Hospital in Greenwood, Arkansas. Our chief surgeon is Dr. Mark E. Sharp a graduate of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Oklahoma State University. We do both mobile surgery at your regular vet’s office and surgeries at our hospital. If you have a pet in need of a skilled surgeon for orthopedic procedures call us at 479-996-6095