If you’re like me, you’ll love your dog for all the reasons it’s not like humans. Your dog eats everything you give to them (unlike your kids). Your dog doesn’t argue back (unlike your partner) and most importantly, your dog always wants to see you (unlike most of your family). But can your dog also get the same illnesses as us, say Parkinson’s disease for example? In humans, Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition that affects the motor system and often leads to dementia. If your dog were to have it, you must proceed with caution and get a diagnosis ASAP to try and slow down degeneration. But can your dog even get Parkinson’s?
Can Dogs Get Parkinson’s?
People may understandably believe that only humans suffer with Parkinson’s, as it’s believed tobacco smoking and heavy caffeine drinking can cause Parkinson’s. But unfortunately, dogs can definitely develop Parkinson’s too.
Does My Dog have Parkinson’s?
Getting swift diagnosis and treatment is dependant on identifying symptoms early. Does your dog have a tremor, in one leg or more? Does your dog have difficulty resting without fidgeting and moving? Does your dog seem to have stiff and inflexible muscles? Has your dog started moving very slowly? All of these may be signs that your dog is suffering with Parkinson’s disease.
Unfortunately, vets and scientists are still unclear as to what causes Parkinson’s. However, it is thought that it can often be hereditary and that certain strains of genes bring on Parkinson’s. There is also a substantial school of thought that believes serious injury may cause Parkinson's. It is perhaps most accurate to say that both hereditary and environmental factors may cause Parkinson’s.
But how will your vet diagnose Parkinson’s? Your vet will have an in-depth conversation with you to identify when symptoms started and how they have progressed. They will then take blood tests, urinalysis and possibly other tests to rule out any other diseases. Diagnosing such complex neurological diseases is not straightforward, but once a diagnosis has been made, your vet will be able to take steps to help relieve symptoms.
How Do I Treat My Dog’s Parkinson’s?
Not enough is known about Parkinson’s of yet to be able to fully cure the disease. Instead your vet will look to relieve the symptoms that diminish your dog’s quality of life. One treatment method is physical therapy. Your dog will have to undertake specific, regular exercises to help maintain movement. Physical therapy may go some way to manage the pain as well.
Medication may be prescribed to help limit tremors and attention will be given to your dog’s diet. Your dog’s diet will need to focus on sustaining muscle mass and supplements may need to be taken to help with this.
Unfortunately, because of the incurable nature of this disease, your dog will never fully recover. However, therapy and medication may lengthen the life of your dog and improve its quality of life. Eventually, when symptoms can no longer be managed anymore, euthanasia is usually used as the only humane option remaining.
For more detailed information on neurological diseases, first-hand accounts from owners and answers from our in-house vets, learn more at our Condition Guides.
How Is Parkinson’s Similar in Dogs and Humans?
In a number of ways, Parkinson’s manifests itself similarly in dogs as it does humans. Some of those similarities are as follows:
In dogs and humans, Parkinson’s can cause a decrease in muscle and joint movement.
In both dogs and humans, muscles may become stiff and inflexible.
In both, Parkinson’s may cause sufferers to tremor or move involuntarily.
In both, Parkinson’s can go on to cause depression and anxiety.
In both, sufferers may seem unable to keep their balance and in turn, fall and stagger frequently.
How Is Parkinson’s Different in Dogs and Humans?
While there are similarities in the symptoms of Parkinson’s in dogs and humans, there are also a number of striking differences:
In humans, Parkinson’s usually affects humans later on in their life, whereas Parkinson’s usually affects young dogs.
Whilst Parkinson’s can cause depression and anxiety in both dogs and humans, we see it much more in humans, as diagnosing such conditions in dogs is much harder.
It is thought smoking and heavy caffeine use can cause Parkinson’s in humans, but we are less clear which environmental factors may cause Parkinson’s in dogs.
Kipper was a 4-year-old Yorkshire terrier who began to show clear signs of Parkinson’s. He had obvious tremors, struggled to hold his balance and became withdrawn in his bed for much of every day. But consistent physical therapy, a change in diet and supplements helped improve and maintain his movement for around 18 months, before his symptoms worsened again. Unfortunately, Kipper had to be put down in the end, as his quality of life had deteriorated significantly. But this case helped show that therapy, in conjunction with supplements and a different diet, can go some way to managing pain and symptoms for some time.