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Evaluation of radiography as a screening method for detection and characterisation of congenital vertebral malformations in dogs


Congenital vertebral malformations (CVM) are common in brachycephalic ‘screw-tailed’ dogs; they can be associated with neurological deficits and a genetic predisposition has been suggested. The purpose of this study was to evaluate radiography as a screening method for congenital thoracic vertebral malformations in brachycephalic ‘screw-tailed’ dogs by comparing it with CT. Forty-nine dogs that had both radiographic and CT evaluations of the thoracic vertebral column were included. Three observers retrospectively reviewed the images independently to detect CVMs. When identified, they were classified according to a previously published radiographic classification scheme. A CT consensus was then reached. All observers identified significantly more affected vertebrae when evaluating orthogonal radiographic views compared with lateral views alone; and more affected vertebrae with the CT consensus compared with orthogonal radiographic views. Given the high number of CVMs per dog, the number of dogs classified as being CVM free was not significantly different between CT and radiography. Significantly more midline closure defects were also identified with CT compared with radiography. Malformations classified as symmetrical or ventral hypoplasias on radiography were frequently classified as ventral and medial aplasias on CT images. Our results support that CT is better than radiography for the classification of CVMs and this will be important when further evidence of which are the most clinically relevant CVMs is identified. These findings are of particular importance for designing screening schemes of CVMs that could help selective breeding programmes based on phenotype and future studies.

  • vertebral malformation
  • computed tomography
  • radiography
  • dog
  • hemivertebra

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