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Canine Neuropathy (The Basics Behind this Scary Nerve Disorder)

Few ailments can fill dog owners with a feeling of helplessness like canine neuropathy. Despite its ability to bring dread to us - not to mention suffering and frustration to our pooches - we may not know much about the condition. However, there are a few things you should know.

Canine Neuropathy At a Glance

Canine neuropathy, also known as canine degenerative neuropathy, is a disease that causes dysfunction within a dog’s peripheral nervous system. These are the network of nerves that connect to the central nervous system and shoot out over the rest of a dog’s body. They chiefly navigate your pooch’s coordination, digestion, and physical responses.

These nerves do not contain the type of bone-driven protection that the central nervous system has via the dog’s skull and vertebrae. Instead, the nerves are protected by a fatty insulation material called myelin sheath. Canine neuropathy sets in when this material deteriorates, essentially short-circuiting the nerves' messaging capabilities and impairing the dog's motor skills.

What Are the Symptoms of Canine Neuropathy?

The symptoms that your dog may experience if he’s suffering from canine neuropathy vary on a case by case basis. This is because the condition can strike at different nerve functions, and therefore cause different types of degeneration. The types of symptoms that a dog might experience are also quite broad.

For instance, a dog affected by motor nerve disorders may have experience muscle tremors, atrophy, weak reflexes, and paralysis in all four legs. A dog suffering from sensory nerve disorders may lose the ability to judge spatial awareness or have a loss of consciousness. If a dog has a dysfunction of his autonomic nervous system - that is, bodily activities that aren't under his conscious control - he may suffer from a lack of anal reflex or a slower heart beat rate.

What Can Cause My Dog to Develop Canine Neuropathy?

Just like there are several different ways that canine neuropathy can affect a dog’s health, there are several ways in which the condition can be contracted. Some of the ways are driven by a dog’s DNA, as it can be inherited from his family line. It could also develop as a metabolic or an immune disease.

Canine Neuropathy can stem from a host of exterior influences, as well. A dog may be able to pick up the condition through parasites or the ingestion of toxins such as thallium (a key ingredient in rodent poison) and carbon tetrachloride (a key ingredient in insecticides). The condition can also be brought upon as a side effect of cancer medications.

If There are So Many Variables, How Can My Dog Be Properly Diagnosed?

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Getting a pinpointed diagnosis requires your vet to conduct a thorough physical exam on your pooch. He or she will also gather as much information as possible about the intangibles surrounding the condition, from symptom history to interactions that may have triggered the condition. X-rays, A urinalysis, blood profile, and an electrolyte panel are other metrics your vet will gauge to make a definitive conclusion.

The most important metric your vet will measure, however, is your dog's electrophysiology. In other words, he or she will gauge the electrical flow to the tissues and cells in your dog's body. This will allow your vet to pick out exactly which peripheral nerves are degenerating.

Is There a Treatment for this Condition?

While there are treatments available that can help lessen your dog's discomfort, the unfortunate truth about canine neuropathy is that there is no cure. As the myelin sheath around the peripheral nerves continues to break down, your dog's condition will get worse over time. It’s advisable to speak to your vet to see what kind of therapies or treatments may be available for your pooch, depending on his condition.

Even though canine neuropathy is a horrendous condition, its affects are not sudden. Therefore, as soon as you recognize that he has the ailment, you can at least take advantage of the time to make things as comfortable for your dog for as long as you can. While this level of comfort may include whatever recommendations may come from your veterinarian, a tremendous chunk of that peace will stem from the love you have for your dog.

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Darlene - February 27, 2018

My dog, Sunny, was recently euthanized at age 14/15 due to degenerative neuropathy (among other conditions). For him, his neuropathy initially presented in the form of laryngeal paralysis or GOLPP. He had the tie-back surgery 4 years ago when he was around 10-11. He did great after surgery and it obviously bought him another 4 years. However, the decline in his back legs was next – weakness and atrophy. That went on for a while too – but lately his front legs started becoming very weak – no decision was made on whether that was due to arthritis or neuropathy.

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