Muscular Dystrophy in Dogs

Muscular Dystrophy in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Most common symptoms

Anemia / Lethargy / Mouth Salivation / Premature Labor / Seizures / Weakness

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Rated as moderate conditon

6 Veterinary Answers

Most common symptoms

Anemia / Lethargy / Mouth Salivation / Premature Labor / Seizures / Weakness

Muscular Dystrophy in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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What is Muscular Dystrophy?

Dystrophin is a protein in the body that is important in maintaining the muscle’s structural integrity while it contracts. A mutation in the gene can disrupt dystrophin production, and its absence in the muscle leads to a degeneration and death of the muscle cells. Those cells are replaced with fatty or bony tissue, which results in the loss of muscle function that can eventually lead to a loss of the ability to walk or breathe. This condition usually affects males, though female cases have been documented and are often misdiagnosed.

Muscular dystrophy refers to a group of over thirty genetic conditions in dogs that cause a breakdown in the muscles involved with movement. This skeletal muscle disease is characterized by stiff muscles and a weakness that limits activity as it worsens. A progressive degeneration is caused by fibrosis, or thickening, of the muscle cells which lead to loss of muscle function. Treatment is limited to symptom relief and cannot stop the progression of the disease, which is often fatal.

Symptoms of Muscular Dystrophy in Dogs

Symptoms have an early onset, and are often present at birth or early in life. They include:

  • Stiffness in muscles
  • Stiff gait
  • Weakening of muscles
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Progressive generalized weakness
  • Plantigrade stance, wherein the toes and metatarsals are flat on the ground
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Muscle enlargement, which can include tongue, diaphragm, and esophagus
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Resistance to exercise
  • Tremors
  • Limb deformity
  • Breathing sounds
  • Excessive drooling

Types

There are many types of muscular dystrophy that have been seen to affect dogs.

  • Golden Retriever Muscular Dystrophy is similar to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) that affects humans and mainly affects Golden Retrievers in the U.S. and Irish Terriers in Europe; along with previously noted symptoms, affected dogs have been reported with heart muscle disease, this type of muscular dystrophy serves as a model for DMD in humans in clinical studies and trials
  • Canine X-linked Muscular Dystrophy
  • Hereditary Myopathy of Labrador Retrievers affects Labrador Retrievers in North America, Europe and Australia; in this type, muscle loss has been noted in affected dogs as young as 6 months old
  • Type that affects Bouviers in Europe, affecting their ability to swallow
  • Other variations of this disease may be seen for each affected breed, including Rottweiler, German Shorthaired Pointer, Belgian Sheepdog, Samoyed, Miniature Schnauzer, Brittany Spaniel, Rat Terrier, Groenendaeler Shepherd, and Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Causes of Muscular Dystrophy in Dogs

Muscular dystrophy in dogs is caused by an inherited mutated dystrophin gene that disrupts the dystrophin protein production, resulting in loss of muscle function. This autosomal recessive gene is located on the X chromosome, which is why most of the reported cases have been male. However, the gene is transmitted through a female carrier who is often free of symptoms, or mildly affected with a limb weakness. Muscle changes are often only seen through muscle biopsy and EMG testing. As such, this condition is often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed in female dogs.

Diagnosis of Muscular Dystrophy in Dogs

A diagnosis of canine muscular dystrophy is derived from symptoms and abnormalities seen in testing. The leading tests for a positive diagnosis are a microscopic evaluation of muscle tissue fibers from a biopsy, and an immunohistochemical staining test. These two tests can also help to distinguish between the different types of muscular dystrophies. 

The response of muscles to electrical stimulation is sought with an EMG. Elevated serum creatine kinase concentrations are determined through serum tests from a blood sample. Other diagnostic tools include complete blood counts, X-rays, EKGs, and a neurological examination.

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Treatment of Muscular Dystrophy in Dogs

There is currently no treatment specifically for this condition, but medication may help with symptoms. Glucocorticosteroids may be administered, but can often have negative consequences.

Surgery may be performed for limb deformity or gait abnormality. Supportive therapies within your dog’s environment can be helpful, such as soft bedding. 

Future treatments may involve the administration of a miniature version of the affected gene, called a microgene, into the body to protect muscles, but is not yet available. This has been seen to allow young dogs to grow normally after treatment.

Recovery of Muscular Dystrophy in Dogs

In general, the recovery from muscular dystrophy is guarded to poor. While some dogs can stabilize after maturity, the progressive nature of the disease leads to weakness, debilitation, and heart muscle disease. Life spans of affected dogs will vary on a case by case basis, and often euthanization is sought.

Prevention is critical in such a debilitating condition. Breeders should take care not to breed affected dogs, though the possibility of an asymptomatic carrier female remaining undiagnosed is always a risk for passing on the gene.

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Muscular Dystrophy Average Cost

From 483 quotes ranging from $300 - $1,000

Average Cost

$500

Muscular Dystrophy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Fran

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Mutt

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3 Months

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Wobbly

I have recently adopted a puppy with the diagnosis of MD. The conclusion was arrived based on ruling out other options. We don't want to do the muscle biopsy as we don't think she would survive the anesthesia. We are just working to make her happy as possible. My question is about feeding. She seems to be in distress after she eats. Is there something we can be doing to help accommodate her to avoid this. She is eating regular dry puppy food, 3x a day. She is small terrior mix possibly. Around 6 lbs.

Aug. 31, 2018

Fran's Owner

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Lily

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Golden Retriever

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4 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Muscle Weakness

Lily started showing abnormalities in her gait at 5 months. She is unable to shake her body when wet. She cannot wag her tail like other Goldens nor can she sit upright. She hops like a bunny. Her back legs give out regularly and she has trouble going up and down steps. Both x-rays and the MRI were negative. The Neurologist suspects Lily may have a muscular or neuromuscular disorder. Lily does not appear to be in pain but it is evident her condition worsens every day. My fear is she is going to fall and break a bone. Are there any treatments that can improve her quality of life?

May 5, 2018

Lily's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Whether there are treatments for Lily depends on what her diagnosis is. I understand your concern, but without knowing what is wrong, I can't recommend any treatments. It would be a good idea to follow up with your veterinarian, and possibly the specialist, to find out what you can do for her, whether there are medications that she may need, or further testing, or physical therapy. They should be able to give you some kind of treatment options. I hope that she is okay.

May 5, 2018

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Lilly

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Lab mix

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5 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Breathing Difficulty
Breathing Difficulty, Weak Hind Legs

We just adopted a 5 month old female puppy is seems to be struggling greatly with her hind legs. They give out on her when walking, or standing. She hops like a bunny when walking. She doesn't seem to be in much pain but i do not know. She also seems to have constipation issues with horrible gas. Along with breathing issues.

Feb. 10, 2018

Lilly's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. It would probably be best to have Lilly examined by a veterinarian, as she seems to have a few things going on that might need to be addressed. She may need hip x-rays to evaluate her bone structure and see if she has any degree of hip dysplasia, and may need to be treated for parasites. Your veterinarian will be able to look at her, determine what might be going on, and recommend any testing or treatments that might help. I hope that she is okay.

Feb. 10, 2018

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Bailey

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Golden Labrador

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4 Months

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

We are more than certain our puppy has MD. just waiting for results from muscle biopsy. His levels are supposed to be about 200, Bailey's are just over 61,000. He can't support himself on his back legs anymore and he's only 4 months old.

Nov. 27, 2017

Bailey's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

This certainly sounds like muscular dystrophy considering the age and breed, at present there is no real treatment apart from supportive care; wait for the results of the muscle biopsy, but a genetic test may also be able to help diagnose the condition (see link below). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.animalgenetics.us/Canine/Genetic_Disease/MD.asp

Nov. 27, 2017

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Lucy

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Golden Retreiver

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7 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Our dog got the muscular dystrophy test and it was slightly elevated. The vet told me the normal range is from 10-200. Her results were 218. The vet said she didn't think it was that and thought we should do X-rays again for hip dysplasia. We already did X-rays and nothing showed but the vet is saying it could have been her age and how young she was. She is 7 months old. We did originally x rays at 10 weeks old.

Oct. 13, 2017

Lucy's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

A lot of growing takes place between ten weeks and seven months, another x-ray may just be useful; but I would recommend a genetic test or muscle biopsy to confirm or rule out muscular dystrophy. Golden Retrievers are prone to muscular dystrophy, but it is more common in males than females. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.pawprintgenetics.com/products/tests/details/136/

Oct. 13, 2017

Muscular Dystrophy Average Cost

From 483 quotes ranging from $300 - $1,000

Average Cost

$500

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