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What are Nerve Disorders Affecting Multiple Nerves?

The variety of nerve disorders that affect canines is great in number. The signs of a disorder of this type, unfortunately, lead to a degenerated state that has no cure. The rate of progression and the severity of the degenerative effects vary between the conditions but all of them lead to eventual loss of nerve function such as pain sensation, reflex, and bodily control. Breed dispositions for nerve disorders affecting multiple nerves are Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Alaskan Malamutes, Tibetan Mastiffs, Siberian Huskies, Saint Bernards, Boxers, Dalmatians, Doberman Pinschers, English Pointers, and Long-haired Dachshunds.

Disorders affecting multiple nerves can be classified as peripheral neuropathies, meaning that they are caused by dysfunctions in the nerves that are found outside of the brain and spinal cord (which is called the central nervous system). The nerve changes which occur in the nerve cell body are progressive, degenerative and untreatable.

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Symptoms of Nerve Disorders Affecting Multiple Nerves in Dogs

The symptoms of peripheral nerve disorders are many and can progress to debilitating states. A very few are described here.

Sensory ganglioneuritis is a disorder predisposed to Siberian Huskies and is an inflammatory condition.

  • Regurgitation
  • Swallowing difficulties (dysphagia)
  • Difficulty getting food into mouth
  • Weak reflexes
  • Self-mutilation because of inability to sense pain
  • Loss of pain perception can also move to the face and the limbs
  • Loss of control in limbs

Dancing Doberman disease affects Doberman Pinschers of either sex as early as 6 months of age, including up to around 7 years of age.

  • All  limbs are eventually affected
  • Begins with flexing of the hips in one limb
  • Progresses to an alternating flex and extension of all limbs
  • Preference to sit rather than stand

Progressive axonopathy of boxers is an inherited condition.

  • Lack of coordination
  • The hind legs are affected first
  • Progresses to all legs by the age of 1 year old
  • The ability to walk and function is still present

Acquired myasthenia gravis is an inflammatory condition which affects adult German Shepherds and Retrievers (Golden and Labrador).

  • Stiffness with activity
  • Tremors
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Regurgitation
  • Weakness of the face and throat

Paraneoplastic neuropathy is a cancer that causes damage to the nerves. Found outside the nervous system, it is most common in dogs with insulinoma.

  • Over a period of weeks, paralysis affects the legs
  • Can affect 2 or 4 limbs
  • The effect is continually progressive

Causes of Nerve Disorders Affecting Multiple Nerves in Dogs

Nerve disorders are caused by a variety of factors. In addition to these very specific reasons for the disorder and examples of them, it is known that nutrition and injury may play a role as well.

  • Infectious (tick paralysis)a 
  • Inflammatory (trigeminal neuritis) 
  • Toxic (organophosphate poisoning) 
  • Idiopathic (Idiopathic facial paralysis)
  • Metabolic (hypothyroid neuropathy) 
  • Hereditary (sensory neuropathy)
  • Paraneoplastic (tumor related)

Diagnosis of Nerve Disorders Affecting Multiple Nerves in Dogs

When you bring your canine family member to the clinic, be prepared to answer questions as the first step in the diagnostic protocol. Your veterinarian may ask the following questions in regards to your dog’s medical history.

  • Have you travelled recently?
  • Is he on medication presently?
  • What type of food does he typically eat?
  • Has his appetite changed?
  • Do you know of recent injury or trauma?
  • When was the approximate onset and have the symptoms progressed?

If you have noticed behavioral changes be sure to relay that information to the veterinarian as our pets often display how they feel through their actions, even though the changes may seem subtle.

A physical examination may be able to indicate very well if a dog is experiencing a nerve disorder. A neurological analysis can verify reflex actions and analyze the gait or muscle control of your pet. A complete blood count, serum chemistry, urinalysis and fecal smear may be ordered as these tests can be very indicative of illness. Other tests that are utilized in the veterinary field as diagnostic tools of nerve disorders are spinal fluid analysis, muscle and peripheral nerve biopsies, and an electromyogram (which will test nerve function).

If there is a contributing factor like cancer, injury or toxicity this will have to be identified and addressed.

Treatment of Nerve Disorders Affecting Multiple Nerves in Dogs

Treatment will vary widely depending on the type of nerve disorder. 

Sensory ganglioneuritis does not have a treatment. The eventual outcome of this disorder is euthanasia. Dancing Doberman disease does not have a treatment either, but dogs with this affliction have been known to function as family members for quite some time after the diagnosis, depending on the severity of the affliction though studies show it is not a debilitating disorder.

Progressive axonopathy of boxers is a condition where the animal functions as he is; there is no treatment available for this ailment. Acquired myasthenia gravis can be managed with medication unless complications arise (such as pneumonia). Paraneoplastic neuropathy will need therapy to address the tumor; if the tumor is eradicated the prognosis can be promising. Other nerve disorders can involve surgery, medication, and removal of toxin or infection. 

Recovery of Nerve Disorders Affecting Multiple Nerves in Dogs

A dog with a nerve disorder can live a long life span depending of course, on the condition. Movement and coordination changes can be adjusted to if need be; our furry family members are remarkably resilient to change as long as they have our support. Nerve conditions of the infectious or toxic type, for example, can be remedied, but in the case of progressive nerve disorders there is the reality of serious complications like respiratory paralysis, self-mutilation (as there is no feeling of pain), aspiration pneumonia, inability to eat (as the throat becomes less able to function and swallow), and choking. Your veterinarian is the best source for guidance and support and will assist you along the way as you help your pet cope with this condition.