Spinal epidural empyema in seven dogs

James A. Lavely, Karen Vernau, William Vernau, Eric J. Herrgesell, Richard A Lecouteur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Objective - To characterize the clinical signs, diagnostic and surgical findings, and outcome in dogs with spinal epidural empyema (SEE). Study Design - Retrospective study. Animals - Seven dogs. Methods - Dogs with SEE between 1992 and 2001 were identified from a computerized medical record system. Inclusion criteria were: neurologic examination, vertebral column radiographs, myelography, antimicrobial culture and susceptibility of material collected surgically from the vertebral canal, a definitive diagnosis of SEE confirmed by surgery, and microscopic examination of tissue from the vertebral canal. Results - Common signs were lethargy, fever, anorexia, apparent spinal pain, and paraparesis/plegia. Common laboratory abnormalities were peripheral neutrophilia, and neutrophilic pleocytosis in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Three dogs had concurrent discospondylitis and 1 of these had vertebral luxation. On myelography, extradural spinal cord compression was focal (2 dogs), multifocal (3), or diffuse (2). Bacteria were isolated not from CSF but from blood, surgical site, pleural fluid, or urine in 6 dogs. Dogs were administered antibiotics and had surgical decompression by hemilaminectomy. Five dogs improved neurologically and had a good long-term outcome. Two dogs were euthanatized, 1 because of worsening of neurologic signs and pneumonia, and the other because of herniation of a cervical intervertebral disc 1 month postoperatively, unrelated to the SEE. Conclusion - Dogs with SEE may have a good outcome when treated by surgical decompression and antibiotic administration. Clinical Relevance - SEE should be included in a list of possible causes for dogs with fever, apparent spinal pain, and myelopathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-185
Number of pages10
JournalVeterinary Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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