Cervical and thoracic vertebral malformation ("weak neck") in Colombia lambs. Academic Article uri icon


  • The purpose of this study is to describe a developmental defect of the caudal cervical and cranial thoracic vertebrae in 11 purebred Colombia lambs. The lambs were either affected at birth, or developed the condition within the first 18 days of age. Cervicothoracic kyphosis, with a compensatory cervical lordosis and ataxia were common; 8 lambs had abnormal head posture, characterized by inability to lift the head from the ground. One lamb had rigid head and neck, and had to move the entire body to look to the left or right. Neurological signs included ataxia, tetraparesis, diminished conscious proprioception, and increased patellar and triceps reflexes. One lamb had inspiratory stridor because of compression of the trachea in the area overlying the abnormal vertebrae (cervical vertebrae 6 [C6] and 7 [C7]). Radiographic and pathological abnormalities included malalignment and malarticulation of the caudal cervical and cranial thoracic spine, rounded cranioventral margins in the bodies of vertebrae C7 and T1, wedging of the intervertebral disc spaces between C6 and T1 vertebrae, and hypoplasia of the dens. Pathological changes in the soft tissues included hypoplasia of the cervical epaxial and hypaxial musculature, with associated focal areas of myodegeneration. Mild Wallerian axonal degeneration, compatible with a mild cord compression syndrome, was found in 3 lambs in the cervicothoracic spinal cord adjacent to the vertebral anomalies. The concentrations of copper and selenium in blood, plasma, or tissues were normal in 10 of 11 lambs. All but one of the lambs in which pedigree information was provided were genetically related. Siblings born as twins to 5 of the affected lambs were normal, but both lambs from one twin pregnancy were affected. Owners reported that breeding stock had been shared among the ranches. Because of the close familial relationships of the affected lambs, the condition is suspected to have a hereditary basis.

published proceedings

  • J Vet Intern Med

author list (cited authors)

  • Lakritz, J., Barr, B. C., George, L. W., Wisner, E. R., Glenn, J. S., East, N. E., & Pool, R. R.

citation count

  • 8

complete list of authors

  • Lakritz, J||Barr, BC||George, LW||Wisner, ER||Glenn, JS||East, NE||Pool, RR

publication date

  • November 1995