One of the more catastrophic ailments that can affect your large-breed dog is a condition known as Wobbler Syndrome, or clinically as cervical vertebral instability.
This syndrome occurs when the spinal cord is compressed in the cervical (neck) area. This compression, or pinching, happens because the vertebra through which the cord passes is malformed or misaligned. The compression injures the part of the spinal cord that's necessary for an animal to stand and/or move normally.
What causes these deformities in the vertebrae isn't yet known, but it is believed to be related to both genetics and nutrition. In some young dogs, Wobbler can develop if the animal is fed a diet excessively high in protein, calcium and phosphorus, in an attempt to accelerate the growth process. This is believed to cause the skeletal changes that occur in some affected dogs. [...]
Often the characteristic gait, lack of coordination and "wobbling" movement that suddenly occurs in horses is automatically assumed to be EPM or Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis. Since this is one of the most common neurological diseases found in horses in North American, it is often noted by equine specialists that the lack of coordination and irregular gait is a common misdiagnosis.
In reality the condition may be a compression of the vertebrae in the neck that is causing the horse's movement problems. Wobbler's syndrome is caused by either an injury or degeneration of the vertebrae that crushes them together, damaging the spinal cords ability to send impulses down the spinal column and to properly orchestrate movement. Narrowing of the spinal cord space in the vertebrae, known as stenosis, is also present in many affected horses. Often Wobbler's syndrome will only affect the front legs and may become progressively more pronounced over time. [...]
Neurological conditions are those conditions that affect the central nervous system or the functioning of the muscles in relation to nerve impulses. Many of the conditions that can occur in dogs also occur in humans as well as other animals, which means there is considerable research and information available on these conditions. Just as with humans, there are medications that can be used to treat some of the neurological conditions, such as epilepsy, but others are progressively degenerative and usually result in death in a relatively short period of time. This is largely due to the brain's control over all the body processes including breathing, circulation and movement. When any or all of these systems become dysfunctional there is a greater risk to the dog to develop other related health problems that tend to make successful treatment and full recovery much more challenging. [...]
The vast majority of the Doberman Pinscher breed of dogs are extremely health canines that live on average 12 to 14 years. They tend to have several health conditions that are common in other breeds and no common major health concerns that are unique within the Doberman breed. It is highly likely that the strong foundation stock that was used to start the breed in the late 1800’s had these genetic conditions as well, and they continue to be present in the modern day Doberman Pinscher as well as the existing foundation breeds. [...]