Spina bifida with associated malformations of the central nervous system in Dorper-cross sheep

Spina bifida with associated malformations of the central nervous system in Dorper-cross sheep
Peer reviewed


CASE HISTORY: In 2008, six lambs within a flock of Dorper-cross sheep were born with musculoskeletal and neurological disease. Clinical signs included hindlimb weakness, and urinary incontinence.
CLINICAL FINDINGS: All lambs had focal, inverted areas of alopecic skin over the caudal sacrum, and short, often kinked tails. Four affected lambs were subject to euthanasia, and necropsied. On gross examination, the arches of sacral vertebrae were absent, and spinal nerves and meninges were adherent to the overlying subcutis. Other gross lesions included narrow, elongated skulls, herniation of the occipital lobes into the caudal fossas, hydrocephalus, and syringomyelia. One lamb had coning of the cerebellar vermis, but cerebellar herniation through the foramen magnum was not identified.
DIAGNOSIS: Spina bifida, with associated malformations of the central nervous system.
CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Examination of breeding records suggested either an autosomal recessive or partially penetrant autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance. Because of the associated tail lesions it is proposed that the pathogenesis of this syndrome involves a defect in development of the tail bud (secondary neurulation), that tethering of the spinal cord resulted in the clinical signs, and abnormal pressure of the cerebral spinal fluid resulted in the defects in the skull and brain.
KEY WORDS: Dorper, sheep, spina bifida, brain malformations, genetic disease, spinal cord, syringomyelia, pathology

Access to the full text of this article is available:

through another providers website:

If you're a member or subscriber and believe you should have access:



Register for an account

Request new password

The whole of the literary matter of the New Zealand Veterinary Journal is copyright Taylor and Francis, Downloading this article signifies agreement with the terms and conditions of electronic access.