Cervical subluxation and compressive myelopathy appears to be a cause of morbidity and mortality in captive Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis). Four cases of cervical subluxation resulting in nerve root compression or spinal cord compression were identified. Three were presumptively induced by trauma, and one had an unknown inciting cause. Two dragons exhibited signs of chronic instability. Cervical vertebrae affected included C1–C4. Clinical signs on presentation included ataxia, ambulatory paraparesis or tetraparesis to tetraplegia, depression to stupor, cervical scoliosis, and anorexia. Antemortem diagnosis of compression was only confirmed with magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography. Treatment ranged from supportive care to attempted surgical decompression. All dragons died or were euthanatized, at 4 days to 12 mo postpresentation. Studies to define normal vertebral anatomy in the species are necessary to determine whether the pathology is linked to cervical malformation, resulting in ligament laxity, subsequent instability, and subluxation.
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Vol. 40 • No. 1