Subaxial cervical articular process subluxation and dislocation: Cervical locked facet injuries in dogs

Vet Surg. 2022 Jan;51(1):163-172. doi: 10.1111/vsu.13746. Epub 2021 Nov 24.


Objective: To describe neurologic signs, diagnostic imaging findings, potential treatments, and outcomes in dogs with subaxial cervical articular process subluxation and dislocation, or a "locked facet."

Study design: Retrospective case series.

Animals: Ten client-owned dogs.

Methods: Dogs with a diagnosis of cervical locked facets were identified through medical records and imaging reports searches. Data on presenting signs, diagnostic findings, treatment, and outcome were recorded.

Results: All cases were small or toy-breed dogs with preceding trauma. Four dogs were tetraplegic with intact pain perception, five were nonambulatory tetraparetic, and one was ambulatory tetraparetic, with half of the tetraparetic dogs having worse motor function in the thoracic limbs. The only sites affected were C5/6 (n = 6) and C6/7 (n = 4). All dogs had unilateral dorsal displacement of the cranial articular process of the caudal vertebra relative to the caudal articular process of the cranial vertebra at the luxation site. Five dogs were treated surgically, three by external coaptation, one by restriction, and one was euthanized the day after diagnosis. All dogs with outcome data (n = 8) became ambulatory. Nonambulatory dogs returned to ambulation in a median of 4 weeks (IQR 1-12; range 1-28).

Conclusion: In these dogs, locked facet injuries affected the caudal cervical vertebrae in small breeds and could be identified on imaging through the presence of dorsal displacement of a cranial articular process. Our small cohort had a functional recovery regardless of treatment.

Clinical signiicance: Locked facet injuries should be a differential for small or toy-breed dogs with a cervical myelopathy secondary to trauma.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cervical Vertebrae
  • Dogs
  • Joint Dislocations* / veterinary
  • Neck
  • Retrospective Studies