CVS neurologists further diagnosis of Discospondylitis in dogs and cats

23rd Jul, 2023

  • Research

CVS neurologists at Dovecote and Vet Oracle Teleradiology have furthered the diagnosis of Discospondylitis in dogs, and addressed a paucity of research on the disease in cats.

Led by neurologist Sergio Gomes, the research group has published three studies that have furthered the understanding, clinical and imaging features of Discospondylitis.

Discospondylitis describes the infection of an intervertebral disc and its adjacent cartilaginous end plates and vertebral bodies. It is commonly bacterial or fungal in origin.

The disease can be challenging to diagnose as signs are variable and sometimes vague. Research is therefore needed to support its diagnosis and provide greater understanding of imaging findings and clinical presentation.

During the research, neurology specialists retrospectively examined cases which presented at multiple referral sites that have furthered the understanding, clinical and imaging features of Discospondylitis in dogs and cats.

To date, MRI has been the imaging modality of choice, with consistent CT imaging features of Discospondylitis in dogs and cats not previously reported in detail. However, with the increased availability of CT in clinical practice, the research set out to examine CT features that could support the diagnosis of Discospondylitis.

Discospondylitis in cats is uncommon, and very little research had been undertaken in this area, with only individual case report published previously. This research group, therefore, reported clinical presentation and imaging data about a population of cats, to support the future diagnosis of these cases.

During the three studies*, the researchers found that:

  • Presentations of Discospondylitis in cats is similar to that in dogs, although there was possible evidence of a higher prevalence of neurological dysfunction in cats. Spinal Hyperaesthesia was present in all cats and Pyrexia was identified in a minority of cases. Accompanying nonspecific clinical signs included lethargy, reluctance to move and jump, anorexia and weight loss. Bacterial culture was unrewarding in most cases, as in dogs, but antibiotic therapy for a mean duration of three months provided a favourable prognosis, with no long-term evidence of recurrence.
  • MRI is currently the imaging modality of choice for Discospondylitis. However, with the availability of CT in clinical practice, this research was warranted. CT presents some advantages over MRI in the diagnosis of Discospondylitis such as excellent depiction of bone, FNA guidance and enhanced utility in preoperative planning of spinal surgery in instances of subluxation or fractures.
  • CT imaging features that can support the diagnosis of Discospondylitis when performed in all three planes, although equivocal cases on CT might still require MRI. Prior to this study, CT imaging features of Discospondylitis in dogs and cats had not been reported.

Sergio Gomes, veterinary neurologist at Dovecote referral hospital said:

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“Discospondylitis is a condition where more knowledge is needed. So we’ve pooled our knowledge and data to conduct a series of research. Research into Discospondylitis is an area of continued interest for this group with future studies planned.”

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CVS Group operates across small animal, farm animal, equine, laboratories and crematoria, with over 500 veterinary practices, referral centres and sites in the UK, the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands. In the last five years the company has invested nearly £80 million in its sites, facilities and equipment, in addition to industry leading training and support, to give the best possible care to animals.

* Research publications:

Gomes, SA, Targett, M, Lowrie, M. Computed tomography features of discospondylitis in dogs. J Vet Intern Med. 2022; 36( 6): 2123- 2131.

Gomes SA, Garosi LS, Behr S, et al. Clinical features, treatment and outcome of discospondylitis in cats. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. 2022;24(4):311-321.

Gomes SA, Behr S, Garosi LS, et al. Imaging features of discospondylitis in cats. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. 2020;22(7):631-640.