Fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) is an acute myelopathy that affects primarily dogs and human beings, and occasionally other mammalian species. It is frequently associated with trauma or vigorous exercise; in dogs it tends to affect mature non-chondrodystrophoid and giant breeds. Signs are acute and frequently indicate a very lateralized or focal lesion within the spinal cord, with resultant disparities in sensory and motor function. Lower motor neuron disease is common and hyperesthesia is unusual. The primary differential diagnoses are concussive trauma and intervertebral disc herniation, but the acute onset of strongly lateralizing spinal cord deficits without hyperesthesia in a breed at risk is strongly suggestive of the FCE syndrome. Attention must be given to other systemic diseases that might also give rise to emboli in the absence of FCE. Diagnosis is based on history, clinical signs, and elimination of other differential diagnoses. Treatment is largely supportive, although high doses of methylprednisolone may be beneficial early in the course of the disease. Affected patients may make a functional recovery if deep pain sensation is preserved and there are not complete lower motor neuron signs in affected limbs or sphincters.
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