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What are Nerve and Muscle Disorders?

The canine’s nervous system, as the human nervous system, is made up of the brain and spinal cord and the nerves and muscles. The latter, or the neuromuscular system, is made up of nerves that control the movements (by way of messages to the brain) to the muscles. The brain is the control center of all of the muscle activity, but it cannot work without the specific nerves to communicate. Walking, running, chewing, and any other movements that are voluntary are only able to work because of the signals from the brain to the spinal cord, and to the peripheral nerve that controls the muscles.

When the neuromuscular system is not working properly, the muscles become weakened and the dog can suffer from muscle atrophy.  Degenerative disorders of the muscles can be temporary and sudden while others are more chronic and progressive.  In mild cases, dogs are affected inconsistently and can still have a good quality of life. In severe cases, paralysis can occur and the dog would need much assistance and loving care.

Nerve and muscle disorders in dogs, or neuromuscular disorders, are disorders that are characterized by abnormalities in the nervous system and the relation to the controlled muscle movements in dogs.

Nerve and Muscle Disorders Average Cost

From 49 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $20,000

Average Cost

$6,500

Symptoms of Nerve and Muscle Disorders in Dogs

Nerve and muscle disorders of dogs present a variety of obvious symptoms that warrant the attention of a medical professional. There are several different neuromuscular disorders and many of them do have very similar symptoms. Symptoms include:

  • Weakness of muscles
  • Muscle degeneration
  • Difficulty or inability to stand, walk, run, or rise from a resting position
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Regurgitation
  • Depression or sadness
  • Lethargy

Types

There are many types of diseases that can have an adverse effect on the nerves and muscles in dogs. The diseases are generally divided into three categories since there is such a large amount. Many of the nerve and muscle diseases are also breed-specific, and many of them are hereditary. The categories of neuromuscular diseases are: 

  • Diseases of the peripheral nerves
  • Diseases of the neuromuscular junction
  • Diseases of the muscles
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Causes of Nerve and Muscle Disorders in Dogs

There are several causes for nerve and muscle disorders. Causes can include:

  • Disease of the nerves
  • Neuromuscular junction disease
  • Myopathy
  • Infectious diseases
  • Nerve inflammation
  • Toxicity
  • Genetics
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Diagnosis of Nerve and Muscle Disorders in Dogs

If your dog is showing signs of neuromuscular disease, it is imperative to take him to the veterinarian. The medical professional will do a thorough exam, including blood work, imaging of the frontal chest and abdomen, an ultrasound of the abdomen. There will possibly be a blood test to look for any antibodies to check for any disorder that affects the nerve and muscle junction. 

Other tests may be given to allow the veterinarian to come to diagnose a specific neurological disorder, such as a Tensilon test, a spinal tap, and possibly a biopsy of the nerves and muscles, and other tests to determine a degenerative disorder or inflammation of nerves or muscles. 

An electromyogram is another test that can be done by delivering electrical stimulation towards a specific nerve or muscle. The dog is put under anesthesia for this test, and the veterinarian will check for muscle response to the nerve stimulation.

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Treatment of Nerve and Muscle Disorders in Dogs

Before any method of treatment can be determined, the veterinarian will need to determine the specific cause of the neuromuscular disorder. Many of these disorders can be quite severe and have different modes of treatment. For example, in the case of a spinal cord disorder, surgery may be the appropriate course of action. A dog who is suffering from myasthenia will be given medication to renew muscle strength. Polymyositis, the most common muscle disease seen in canines, will need therapy in the form of corticosteroids. Removal of toxins, if possible, will be the treatment for toxic neuropathy. As the range of disorders of the nerves and muscles is very extensive, discussion in great length with your veterinarian may be expected.

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Recovery of Nerve and Muscle Disorders in Dogs

The primary cause of neuromuscular disorders in dogs can vary greatly, as well as the severity.  Many of the neuromuscular disorders in dogs are treatable and the prognosis is anywhere from fair to good with a great deal of supportive care and therapy. Unfortunately, some of the neuromuscular disorders have a prognosis of poor, such as those caused by cancerous tumors, myopathy, or inherited neuropathy. 

It is important to understand that some of these diseases are degenerative, and the dog may live a good quality of life for some time before his health deteriorates. Becoming educated and proactive in the disease is the key to giving your dog a good quality of life. Learning about possible alternative treatments, such as holistic care and acupuncture therapy, may keep you positive about your loved one’s prognosis.

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Nerve and Muscle Disorders Average Cost

From 49 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $20,000

Average Cost

$6,500

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Nerve and Muscle Disorders Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Weimaraner

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Twelve Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Ataxic

12 y/o Weim spayed female with progressive neurological sxs. Ataxic gait with sliding hind legs and muscle atrophy, cold feet. Discontinuance of tear production requiring both ointment and and artificial tears approx. 2 weeks; Dry nasal bridge, air licking x 1 week. Was anorexic until the introduction of people food/high protein wet food. Originally 75 down to 60 lbs, now about 65 lbs. Completed 21 days of doxycycline to exclude tick-borne meningitis. Currently taking 30 mg predisone (has been on for 35 days). Some improvement of ataxia upon initiation of predisone, but deteriorating.

July 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Ellen M. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, thank you for your question. I am so sorry to hear that your dog is having so many issues. Without examining your dog and knowing more about blood work and the case in general, it's hard to know what might be going on. I'm sure this has been very stressful, and difficult to watch your dog deteriorate, and I am so sorry. If you have not already, I would ask your veterinarian for referral to a neurology or internal medicine specialist if you want to further work this up or try additional treatments. Otherwise, you may need to talk to your vet about quality of life, as hard as that is. Again, I am so sorry to hear that your dog is so ill. :( I hope that things start to improve - referral to a specialist would be your best bet if you wish to continue with testing and treatment. Best of luck.

July 24, 2020

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Honey

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Maltese

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8 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Muscle Tremor

My dog is a Maltese/Pomeranian. He injured his front right leg and has had some limp since 1. A vet said he also has luxating patella in his legs. He seems to have developed a muscular issue since his hind legs can't stop shaking when he eats, it is such a strain. His muscles seem weak, he doesn't like to walk far, and he has recently injured his front right leg just from chasing his toy, he literally can't walk on that leg. He's been to the vet and they say it's muscular. Could he have a neuromuscular disease -I believe it's something more than just an injured muscle.

March 7, 2018

Honey's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Without examining Honey I cannot say whether this is just sprains caused by a bad footing or other cause; you should restrict Honey’s movement for a week or two to prevent any further injury and to look out for recovery. If there is no improvement or injuries continue to occur, then a more thorough examination would be required to look into alternative causes. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

March 7, 2018

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Mugsy

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Puggle

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Depression
Difficulty Walking
Gas

My dog started becoming very weak and isolated about 5 days ago and then started being unable to walk on his paw or get up he’s also very depressed crying frequently when I’m out of sight and apathetic. In addition his gas is foul smelling and his personality is very different from normal

March 4, 2018

Mugsy's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Mugsy needs to see a veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will be able to examine him, recommend any necessary testing or treatments. I hope that everything is okay with him.

March 5, 2018

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Max

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German Shepherd

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13

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Wobbly Rear Gait

I have a almost 13 year old GS who has bee suffering from progressive arthritis and it was not until recently that the Vet said it was some type of myelomyopathy? In reading this webpage, I became aware of the possible blood and other tests available to confirm this diagnosis; and I am a bit upset that this Vet. did not discussed this with us. My question, what type of vet would you suggest I take my dog? Two different vets have told us that my dog is just "old and senile" and thus the progressive weakness, stiffness of his hind leg. I would like to have a true diagnosis for my 13 year old fur boy. thank you Letty

July 26, 2017

Max's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

German Shepherds are known for having problems with their back legs due to hip dysplasia and spinal problems; most likely the weakness in Max’s hind limbs would be attributable to some spinal problem due to his breed, an x-ray (with or without contrast - myelography) would tell you more. For more information I’ve placed a link to our page on Degenerative Myelopathy which is this common disorder in German Shepherds which gives more information about the condition along with diagnosis and management of the condition. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVMwww.vetary.com/dog/condition/degenerative-myelopathy

July 26, 2017

I would like to know different diseases

May 27, 2018

Mira F.

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Biscuit

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Chihuahua

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4 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

My dog he's name is biscute he just recently started acting like he is tweaking acts really scared won't go to the bathroom out side sounds like he is crying sometimes won't eat just goes back and fourth won't be still looks scared or something he stays like this for a couple of hours don't really have the money to take him to a vet please please any one out there that can help and under stand my situation

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Molly

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yorkie/shit zu

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7 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Uncontrolled Movements Of Head/Eyes

My ydog just recently was treated for scratchng her ear due to skin allergies and had to waear a plastic cone until it healed. I noticed she was turning her had to the side more and i thought it was because of the cone. Her ear flap healed and after 4 days i took it off because she was tripping on herself and her head looked like she had a crick in her neck. A few days after i took the cone off, I noticed her head was spinning uncontrollably as well as her eyes and it has happened a couple of times also. I had to rub her neck a few seconds until it stopped. Is this a nrevous disorder. She is walking and running normally but is shy to jump on my bed, not like her.

Nerve and Muscle Disorders Average Cost

From 49 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $20,000

Average Cost

$6,500

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