Glial activation and degeneration are important outcomes in the pathophysiology of acute brain and spinal cord injury (SCI). Our main goal was to investigate the pattern of glial activation and degeneration during secondary degeneration in both gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM) following SCI. Adult rats were deeply anesthetized and injected with 20 nmol of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) into the ventral horn of rat spinal cord (SC) on T7. Animals were perfused after survival times of 1, 3, and 7 days. Ten-micrometer sections were submitted to immunocytochemistry for activated macrophages/microglia, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and myelin. Astrocyte activation was more intense in the vacuolated white matter than in gray matter and was first noticed in this former region. Microglial activation was more intense in the gray matter and was clear by 24 h following NMDA injection. Both astrocytosis and microglial activation were more intense in the later survival times. Conspicuous WM vacuolation was present mainly at the 3-day survival time and decreased by 7 days after the primary damage. Quantitative analysis revealed an increase in the number of pyknotic bodies mainly at the 7-day survival time in both ventral and lateral white matter. These pyknotic bodies were frequently found inside white matter vacuoles like for degenerating oligodendrocytes. These results suggest a differential pattern of astrocytosis and microglia activation for white and gray matter following SCI. This phenomenon can be related to the different pathological outcomes for this two SC regions following acute injury.