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What is Dancing Doberman Disease?

There are many disorders that present similar signs as the dancing Doberman disease such as wobbler syndrome, arthritis, disc disease, hip dysplasia, neuropathy, and myasthenia gravis. One of the main differences is that dogs with dancing Doberman disease seem to be in no pain at all. However, some veterinary experts believe that there is a burning sensation in your dog’s feet which causes him to start shifting from foot to foot. Besides dancing, your dog may also be knuckling over and eventually may not want to stand up at all. Strangely, your dog will be able to walk and run normally, but when standing he will start shifting.

Dancing Doberman disease (distal polyneuropathy) is a genetic neurological disorder that causes the dog’s hind legs to flex on their own, making him look like he is dancing. This has only been reported in Dobermans, which is why it is named as such. The reason for the disease is still unknown, but what is known is that it causes peripheral sensory neuromyopathy in the calf muscles. Signs of dancing Doberman disease may start as early as six months of age or late as seven years of age. It starts gradually with just one leg but progresses to both legs, making your dog not want to stand or walk and has trouble going up and down stairs. The disease does not seem to be painful, which is good because it is progressive and there is no cure or effective treatment.

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Symptoms of Dancing Doberman Disease in Dogs

If your dog has dancing Doberman disease, the first sign you may notice is a spasm or jumping of the muscles in one or both of the rear limbs. This will soon be followed by intermittently flexing the legs, stretching them out behind. Some of the other common symptoms include:

  • Flexing leg and hip muscles
  • Holding one leg up or outward
  • Shifting back and forth
  • Sitting or lying instead of standing
  • Walking and running are still normal, but standing is not tolerated well
  • Knuckling over in rear legs

Causes of Dancing Doberman Disease in Dogs

Dancing Doberman disease is only seen in the Doberman Pinscher breed of dogs. It has been reported in both sexes and most often between four months and nine years of age.

Diagnosis of Dancing Doberman Disease in Dogs

Diagnosis can be troublesome due to the fact that most diagnostic tests will be normal. The veterinarian will most likely rely on your description of symptoms and medical history as well as a physical examination and specialized tests to rule out other conditions. Your dog’s vital signs will be recorded and the veterinarian will use a stethoscope to auscultate and palpate the major muscles and vital organs. A muscle enzyme analysis is done, which includes aldolase, aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), and creatine kinase (CK). Routine blood tests are used to be sure your dog does not have an infection or another type of illness.

There are many conditions that present with the same or similar symptoms such as disc disease, spinal cord inflammation, arthritis, spinal tumors, myasthenia gravis, hip dysplasia, and wobbler syndrome. Some of the other tests your veterinarian will probably use for diagnosis include a myelogram, which is performed using dye injected into the spinal cord to analyze the tissues and nerve roots, muscle biopsy, and electromyography, done by sending electrical currents to the muscles and recording the signals returned from the nerves.

Treatment of Dancing Doberman Disease in Dogs

There is no cure or treatment for dancing Doberman disease, but luckily it is not painful as far as the experts can tell. There is really no change in quality of life either because your dog should still be able to walk and run normally, just not sit or stand for any length of time. Eventually, your dog’s muscles may atrophy and weaken so some veterinary professionals suggest physical therapy and massage to help prevent this.

Physical Therapy

The most common type of therapy is massage, which is good to help muscle development and improve circulation. This can be done by a therapist or you can do it yourself. Thermotherapy (heat packs) and cryotherapy (cold packs) are helpful to stimulate circulation. Passive range of motion is just flexing and extending the legs which helps work the muscles. Hydrotherapy can be an excellent tool and fun for both you and your dog. This does not require a therapist but your veterinarian may want to suggest certain techniques that will help your dog the most.

Recovery of Dancing Doberman Disease in Dogs

Dancing Doberman disease is progressive and there is no cure, but your dog’s life expectancy or quality of life should not be affected. However, you should continue to follow up with your veterinarian regularly.

Dancing Doberman Disease Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Rocky
Doberman Pinscher
7 Months
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Hair Loss

I have a doberman pinscher 7month.He is a good condition.I feed him with dry food junior pedigree and give him omega 3 and supplements Trixie for bone growth.But today i saw a patchy hair in chest with no inflamation and no itachy.I treat my dogs regularly for worms and with fipronil for flea.Please can you help me? Do i need to give him vitamins supplemets?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1604 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Common causes for this condition in Dobermans might be a bacterial or fungal infection, a parasite called Demodex, or a breed-related alopecia. It would be best to have him seen by your veterinarian, as they can examine him, recommend any testing or treatment that might be needed, and resolve his hair loss while it is mild.

I realize this is a Doberman specific condition but we have been experiencing the same thing with our chihuahua going on 2 years. It has made it very difficult for him to get proper exercise and is clearly frustrating to him. Is there a similar condition to this found in chihuahuas or other breeds? We had full body scans done and the most they could tell us was that it was ‘neurological’.

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