Cerebrospinal fluid analysis in dogs: Main patterns and prevalence of albuminocytological dissociation

Vet Rec. 2021 Mar;188(5):e27. doi: 10.1002/vetr.27. Epub 2021 Feb 10.


Background: Albuminocytological dissociation (ACD) of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is defined as an increased total protein concentration with normal total nucleated cell count. It is suspected to occur in diseases that alter the blood-brain barrier, increase the production of protein or obstruct the flow of CSF. The purposes of this study were to review the CSF analysis results of a large cohort of dogs with neurological conditions, to analyse the total prevalence of ACD and to describe which diseases have a higher prevalence of ACD.

Study design and methods: Medical records were retrospectively searched for dogs whom CSF was sampled from 2012-2019. Data collected included signalment, body weight, site of collection of the CSF, CSF analysis results, and final diagnosis.

Results: A total of 497 dogs met the inclusion criteria. ACD was identified in 16.5% (82/497) of dogs. The diseases with higher proportion of ACD were cranial nerve neuropathy (6/10; 60.0%), brain tumour (10/24; 41.7%), idiopathic vestibular disease (7/17; 41.2%) and brain vascular disease (4/13; 30.8%).

Clinical significance: This study describes the CSF patterns of the most common neurological conditions in dogs, also characterizing, for the first time in dogs, the prevalence and causes of ACD, which was identified in 16.5% of the samples. The diseases with highest proportions of ACD were cranial nerve neuropathy, brain tumour, idiopathic vestibular disease and brain vascular disease.

Keywords: canine; central nervous system; clinical pathology; neurology; total protein concentration.

MeSH terms

  • Albumins / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Animals
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / chemistry*
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / cytology*
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Proteins / analysis*
  • Dog Diseases / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Male
  • Nervous System Diseases / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Nervous System Diseases / veterinary
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Albumins
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Proteins