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What is Polyneuropathy?

Polyneuropathy, meaning many abnormalities of the nervous system, is marked by clinical signs that include progressive weakness in the limbs, exercise intolerance, high-steppage, change in bark pitch and difficulty breathing. Sometimes called chronic relapsing polyneuropathy, the disorder is caused by damage to the fatty covering that encircles and protects nerve fibers. 

Neuropathy means a disease of, or damage to nerves. When it occurs outside of the brain or spinal cord, it is called a peripheral neuropathy. When particularized to dogs and cats, polyneuropathy is a collection of peripheral nerve disorders that are often breed-specific. Unlike mononeuropathy in which one nerve type is affected, polyneuropathy stipulates the involvement of three types of peripheral nerves -- sensory nerves, motor nerves, and autonomic nerves. Overall, any nerve damage interferes with the function of these peripheral nerves.  

It’s no wonder that canines with peripheral neuropathy often struggle to maintain balance, respiration, and other vital functions. Polyneuropathy in dogs often strikes without warning anywhere from ten to twenty months of age. Opposite to acute neuropathy, symptoms of chronic neuropathy begin slowly and increase over time.

Canine polyneuropathy is a neurological disease characterized by a dysfunction of peripheral nerves.

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Polyneuropathy Average Cost

From 393 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $6,000

Average Cost

$4,000

Symptoms of Polyneuropathy in Dogs

Symptoms may be varied and inconsistent.

  • Change in gait
  • Loss of bark
  • Weakness in legs
  • Tremor
  • Lack of coordination
  • Resistance to standing and walking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Atrophy
  • Loss of pain sensation leading to self-mutilation

Types

Two examples of peripheral neuropathies include Dancing Doberman disease and an idiopathic polyneuropathy associated with the Alaskan Malamute. Alaskan Malamutes are known to inherit diseases that progressively enervate their instinctual desire to hunt and work. Alaskan Malamute Polyneuropathy (AMPN) causes atrophy of the spinal muscle, a noticeable change in gait, as well as symmetric hind limb weakness. Significant changes may include an inability to walk up the stairs or jump.  While some partially recover, many Malamutes are euthanized due to a markedly decreased quality of life.  Dancing Doberman Disease (DDD) is another example of a breed-related, progressive peripheral neuropathy. This problem is relatively rare and only affects Doberman Pinschers. Soon after onset, the Doberman may begin to resist putting weight on both hind legs. A continual shifting behavior explains the dancing term. There appears to be no pain, but muscles in the unused legs may eventually lose sensation. Even with the progression toward muscle atrophy, dogs with DDD often live long, healthy lives.

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Causes of Polyneuropathy in Dogs

The job of the peripheral nervous system (PNS), is to carry information from the central nervous system, the brain, and spinal cord, to the rest of the body. While sensory nerves relay messages about touch, smell and taste, motor nerves serve to help the brain control the muscles. Autonomic nerves are central to the body as they control heart rate, breathing and digestion. Nerve damage substantially impacts the communication between the PNS and the entire body.

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Diagnosis of Polyneuropathy in Dogs

Diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy is difficult, and often requires a neurological examination, diagnostic tests such as ultrasound and chest x-rays, a muscle biopsy and electronic testing of nerve response and activity. Your veterinarian, or a veterinary neurologist, may also recommend blood testing and a spinal tap to check for various disorders. It will be important to test for conditions that may present in a similar manner such as a tumor or other neurological disease, in order to rule them out.

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Treatment of Polyneuropathy in Dogs

Currently, there is no treatment for these conditions. Though top researchers and veterinary colleges have devoted decades to the study of canine polyneuropathy, there are still more questions than answers. Symptoms vary considerably from dog to dog, and in most cases, the onset of symptoms is sudden rather than progressive. While some dogs appear to grow out of it, others decline so sharply that they require euthanasia.

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Recovery of Polyneuropathy in Dogs

Since the extent and nature of the disease varies so greatly from dog to dog, it is difficult to predict chances for recovery. Though your dog may suddenly appear to improve, he may present with new symptoms within a short period. No matter the course of the disease, your canine will never fully return to the state or condition pre-onset. Thus, it’s recommended to continually monitor symptoms and evaluate your pet’s quality of life.

It is also important to remove any affected dog from a breeding environment. Neutering your dog is advisable not only to prevent breeding, but also to lessen undue stress.

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Polyneuropathy Average Cost

From 393 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $6,000

Average Cost

$4,000

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Polyneuropathy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Skeeter

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Great Dane

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4 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking

Our 4 year old neutered, 150 lb Great Dane, Skeeter, has been diagnosed with Polyneuropathy and the Neurologist wants to do a muscle/nerve biospy surgery that will cost $3000 only to omit things it could be and in the end we will most likely still have our baby with untreatable neuropathy. When he was under 2 years old we had laryngeal paralysis surgery done to help his breathing. His breathing is still a bit labored especially with his daily walks, but he is doing good with that. The problem now is his hind legs; he has basically always done the "dancing" when he would eat or drink, but now he lifts and holds up his hind legs like they are in pain (mainly his back right leg) and he rolls his back paws especially the left back paw (it buckles). We give him two 325 mg aspirin twice a day which seems to help a bit. We are not sure if we should put Skeeter through this surgery, if we knew it would help him we would do it in a heartbeat. We are wondering if getting custom braces made for his hind legs might help. He truly still has puppy in him and enjoys bounding and loping around and playing with our other dogs. We are just wondering what the future holds.

July 14, 2018

Skeeter's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

I wish that I could give you definitive answers to your questions, but unfortunately nobody can tell the future, and the reason that we do testing it to try and find out what is going on so that we can treat it if possible. It would be worth having a frank conversation with the neurologist about the value of that test, and if they think that it is likely an untreatable neuropathy. If so, physical therapy may help to keep the muscles strong, but ultimately he will lose use of those legs, which is very sad in a 150 pound dog as options are limited. I hope that things go well for him.

July 14, 2018

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Morris

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Labrador

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12 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Buckling Of Hind Legs, Tremors

Hello, my grandoggie was just diagnosed with polyneuropathy. :( He had been choking on this food as of late and making gagging noises. Also, his bark has changed quite a bit. Not nearly as low and strong as it previously was. My daughter has taken him to a specialist to have surgery for the "lar par". If the surgery is a success can it extend his quality of life while dealing with polyneuropathy? We are hoping that if the fear of him choking on his food is lessened and his panting improves that he will be able to resume his 2nd favorite activity. His first love is food and then his walks. :) We would hate to think of Morris in pain or suffering due to this nasty disease.

June 14, 2018

Morris' Owner

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0 Recommendations

Surgery to correct laryngeal paralysis should improve quality of life for Morris, but there are some possible complications of the surgery which may include loss of bark (seems to be an issue already), aspiration of food and water, failure of the surgery requiring another surgery among other issues. Whilst the surgery will improve breathing, it will not make any changes to the generalised polyneuropathy. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.acvs.org/small-animal/laryngeal-paralysis www.acvim.org/Portals/0/PDF/Animal%20Owner%20Fact%20Sheets/Neurology/Laryngeal%20Paralysis.pdf

June 14, 2018

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Polyneuropathy Average Cost

From 393 quotes ranging from $2,000 - $6,000

Average Cost

$4,000

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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