What is Key-Gaskell Syndrome?
A dog who has Key-Gaskell syndrome will begin to show the effects of the disease within two weeks of the onset. Specifically, the autonomic nervous system (ANS) will lose its ability to function properly. The parasympathetic nervous system aids in the activity of the organs and glands while at rest. The nervous system known as the sympathetic is key to the function of actions such as the production of adrenaline, heart rate and overall body alertness. Regrettably, dysautonomia means a degeneration of the peripheral nerves and these operations.Key-Gaskell syndrome refers to the condition when the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is in a state of gradual degeneration. Also known as dysautonomia, this condition, unfortunately, has a guarded prognosis with a high case of mortality. While the condition is most common in cats, it is noted that this disease is also frequently seen in canines under the age of three.
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Symptoms of Key-Gaskell Syndrome in Dogs
Because the autonomic nervous system governs the glands, digestive system muscles, heart, respiratory system and the skin, symptoms of the damaging effects on your pet’s nervous system will become evident. Take your dog to see the veterinarian without delay if you notice any of the following:
- Regurgitation of food
- Fecal incontinence
- Difficulty urinating or leakage
- Dry mouth and nose
- Prolapsed third eyelid
- Fear/avoidance of light (photophobia)
- Extreme weakness and weight loss
Causes of Key-Gaskell Syndrome in Dogs
The cause of this very serious syndrome is unclear. Studies have not yet been able to pinpoint a definitive explanation as to why dogs come down with this condition. The degeneration is not considered inflammatory, and reportedly significantly dangerous intestinal issues are largely present, leading to a high level of mortality.
Diagnosis of Key-Gaskell Syndrome in Dogs
The veterinarian, upon examination of your dog, will most likely note ocular signs immediately. The eyes can present a very conclusive lead to a swift diagnosis. Pupils of canines afflicted with dysautonomia are often dilated and unresponsive. The third eyelid may be protruding or prolapsed. A dry, crusty nose is often seen, and the mucous membranes and the oral cavity will be lacking in moisture. During the examination, it is important to relay symptoms or changes you have recently noticed in your pet’s behavior such as lethargy or refusal to eat.
An x-ray may show several signs of Key-Gaskell syndrome, such as an enlarged esophagus that can be present due to the inability of the esophagus tube to push food into the stomach. Aspiration of food into the lungs can cause and present as pneumonia; a dilated stomach or an obstruction in the intestine are possibilities also. Slow gastric emptying, due to dysautonomia can be a cause for intestinal issues.
Treatment of Key-Gaskell Syndrome in Dogs
Presently there is no method of treatment for this disease. Complete recovery is rare. It has been noted in some cases that a dog may improve several months after treatment, but full recovery is not the usual resolution, resulting in lifetime management of the disease. However, steps can be taken upon diagnosis to improve the medical condition of your dog. Low doses (to start) of drugs to relieve the parasympathetic dysfunction will be administered under close supervision, due to the risk of denervation hypersensitivity.
Medications to diminish the lack of tears and moisture, along with humidifiers and nebulizers will ease discomfort experienced with dry mucous membranes. Tube feeding may be commenced in order to allow your dog to gain back the necessary nutritional levels. The feeding may take place with your dog in an elevated position. If there are any secondary infections, antibiotics will be administered. Catheterization or manual bladder expression will also be done.
Recovery of Key-Gaskell Syndrome in Dogs
Because of permanent shortcomings in the quality of life for dogs diagnosed with dysautonomia, many owners choose to have their dogs euthanized. For owners who choose to go the management route, long-term intensive care by the veterinarian is necessary. Bladder management is key to avoiding urinary tract infections and constant bladder distention. The absence of anal tone points to the need for lifelong nursing care. Because this condition also includes decreased control of the heart, your pet will also have an abnormally slow heart rate. Depression is often present. Dogs who do live for a time with Key-Gaskell syndrome often die due to secondary complications such as aspiration pneumonia.