Comparing clinical outcomes of dogs suffering from degenerative lumbosacral stenosis upon surgical or nonsurgical treatment



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PICO question

In dogs suffering from degenerative lumbosacral stenosis (DLSS), is surgical treatment more effective than nonsurgical therapy in reducing lumbosacral pain and neurological dysfunction in the long-term?


Clinical bottom line

Category of research


Number and type of study designs reviewed

Two papers were critically reviewed. They were prospective and retrospective studies.

Strength of evidence


Outcomes reported

Besides the two studies, there are no other studies currently available that directly compare long-term clinical outcome of patients that have undergone nonsurgical and surgical treatment respectively.

In the study comparing clinical outcome of nonsurgical treatment by epidural steroid injection (ESI) and surgical treatment of degenerative lumbosacral stenosis, dogs were classified into clinical severity groups ranging from mild to moderate to severe. Mild cases demonstrated degenerative lumbosacral stenosis (DLSS) compatible clinical signs such as lumbosacral pain, reluctance to climb stairs / jump / raise up, lameness and muscle atrophy but no neurological deficits. Moderate cases presented DLSS compatible clinical signs in combination with neurological deficits such as reduced flexor withdrawal, proprioceptive deficits and nerve root signature. Severe cases demonstrated DLSS compatible clinical signs with more severe neurological deficits such as tail paresis and absent perineal reflex. Clinical outcomes were considered complete if clinical signs had resolved at follow-up consultations, partial if there was substantial but incomplete improvement in clinical signs and failed if the dog did not improve or deteriorated further. Improvements in patient condition were measured in terms of clinical outcome grading which is in relation to the initial clinical severity group assigned to each dog. Improvement after single dose of ESI was seen in 27/32 dogs, with 17/22 (after accounting for four dogs whose owners have refused further treatment, five dogs lost to follow-up after re-check as well as one dog whose owners have opted for repeated ESI instillations) relapsing within 6 months. All 17 of these dogs that suffered a relapse after single ESI subsequently underwent surgical treatment and demonstrated improvement in clinical signs, with a complete response seen in eight dogs and a partial response seen in nine dogs.

In the study comparing clinical outcome of conservative treatment of exercise restriction with phenylbutazone administration and surgical treatment of degenerative lumbosacral stenosis, outcomes were classified as good in dogs that regained preoperative activity levels; acceptable in dogs with persistent abnormality or requiring continued medication though otherwise active, and poor in all other cases. Out of 16 dogs treated surgically, 11 were treated by dorsal lumbosacral laminectomy and excision of the dorsal portion of the lumbosacral disc, while the other five had additional unilateral facetectomy to decompress the seventh lumbar nerve. Out of the 11 dogs treated with dorsal lumbosacral laminectomy and excision of the dorsal portion of the lumbosacral disc, 6/11 (54.5%) of dogs were deemed to have a good outcome, while 3/11 (27.3%) of dogs were deemed to have an acceptable outcome. Out of the five dogs treated with dorsal lumbosacral laminectomy and excision of the dorsal portion of the lumbosacral disc with additional unilateral facetectomy, 3/5 (60%) of dogs were deemed to have an acceptable outcome. The outcome of conservative treatment was deemed good in 8/16 (50%) of dogs in the conservative treatment group.


There is evidence suggesting that both nonsurgical and surgical treatments can improve clinical outcomes and reduce lower back pain and neurological deficits. However, based on the current limited literature, it cannot be ascertained whether surgical treatments are more effective than nonsurgical treatments in improving long-term clinical outcomes and vice versa. In the study that tested the efficacy of epidural steroid injection, only a single dose of steroids was given in this study, making it a potential reason for the high rate of relapse following nonsurgical treatment. For surgical treatment of DLSS, the type of surgical procedure chosen would also depend on the part of the lumbosacral region which fails and leads to compression. In conclusion, randomised controlled trials that compare different forms of nonsurgical treatment with surgical treatment for dogs with DLSS caused by different underlying factors need to be conducted to properly address the PICO question.


How to apply this evidence in practice

The application of evidence into practice should take into account multiple factors, not limited to: individual clinical expertise, patient’s circumstances and owners’ values, country, location or clinic where you work, the individual case in front of you, the availability of therapies and resources.

Knowledge Summaries are a resource to help reinforce or inform decision making. They do not override the responsibility or judgement of the practitioner to do what is best for the animal in their care.


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Danielsson, F. & Sjöström, L. (1999). Surgical Treatment of Degenerative Lumbosacral Stenosis in Dogs. Veterinary Surgery. 28(2), 91–98. DOI:

De Decker, S., Wawrzenski, L. & Volk, H. (2014). Clinical signs and outcome of dogs treated medically for degenerative lumbosacral stenosis: 98 cases (2004–2012). Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 245(4), 408–413. DOI:

Fenn, J., Olby, N. & the Canine Spinal Cord Injury Consortium (CANSORT-SCI). (2020). Classification of Intervertebral Disc Disease. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 7, 579025. DOI:

Golini, L., Kircher, P.R., Lewis, F.I. & Steffen, F. (2012). Transarticular Fixation With Cortical Screws Combined With Dorsal Laminectomy and Partial Discectomy as Surgical Treatment of Degenerative Lumbosacral Stenosis in 17 Dogs: Clinical and Computed Tomography Follow-Up. Veterinary Surgery. 43(4), 405–413. DOI:

Gomes, S. A., Lowrie, M. & Targett, M. (2018). Long-term outcome following lateral foraminotomy as treatment for canine degenerative lumbosacral stenosis. Veterinary Record. 183(11), 352–352. DOI:

Gomes, S. A., Lowrie, M. & Targett, M. (2020). Single dose epidural methylprednisolone as a treatment and predictor of outcome following subsequent decompressive surgery in degenerative lumbosacral stenosis with foraminal stenosis. The Veterinary Journal. 257, 105451–105451. DOI:

Hankin, E., Jerram, R., Walker, A., King, M. & Warman, C. (2012). Transarticular Facet Screw Stabilization and Dorsal Laminectomy in 26 Dogs with Degenerative Lumbosacral Stenosis with Instability. Veterinary Surgery. 41(5), 611–619. DOI:

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Mrkovački, J., Srzentić Dražilov, S., Spasovski, V., Fazlagić, A., Pavlović, S. & Nikčević, G. (2021). Case Report: Successful Therapy of Spontaneously Occurring Canine Degenerative Lumbosacral Stenosis Using Autologous Adipose Tissue-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 8, 732073. DOI:

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Vol. 8 No. 2 (2023): The second issue of 2023

Section: Knowledge Summaries

Categories :  Small Animal  /  Dogs  /  Cats  /  Rabbits  /  Production Animal  /  Cattle  /  Sheep  /  Pig  /  Equine  /  Exotics  /