Canine chorea - What is it?

Canine chorea - What is it?

Health & Safety

Chorea is a chronic movement disorder that is a type of neurological problem which leads to abnormal, involuntary bodily movements. It can be found in people as well as other animals such as dogs, and in some cases, can be treated successfully, depending on a range of factors. It may affect either the entire body or just one side of it, and can be symptomatic of a wider condition of disease within the body too, such as distemper or encephalitis.

In this article, we will examine chorea in dogs in more detail, including why it may occur, how it is diagnosed, and what can be done about it. Read on to learn more.

What is chorea?

Chorea is a disease that affects the body’s nervous system, and is in fact the most commonly occurring nervous system disorder seen in the dog. The exact causes for chorea are not fully understood, but a range of conditions and incidents can lead to the development of chorea in the dog.

Chorea can affect dogs of any age and breed, and of either sex.

What are some of the causes of chorea in dogs?

As mentioned, there is no widely accepted explanation as to why chorea occurs in dogs, but several conditions and problems are thought to cause or contribute to its development. Some of the most common of these include:

  • Canine distemper.
  • Various different forms of poisons and toxic substances.
  • Traumas or injuries to the head.
  • Brain tumours and other growths.
  • Vaccine reactions.
  • Internal parasites that attack the dog’s nervous system.

Identifying canine chorea

Chorea is one condition that displays clear, unambiguous symptoms, and so is reasonably easy to identify and diagnose. Some of the core symptoms of the condition include:

  • Uncontrollable spasms or twitching of various muscle groups, which can occur either in one localised area or all across the body. This symptom can be witnessed both when the dog is asleep and when they are awake.
  • Confusion and disorientation.
  • Sudden collapse for no obvious reason.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Anxiety and distress.
  • Inability to perform certain movements that the dog has previously managed without a problem.
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control.

Can chorea in the dog be treated?

Whether or not chorea in the dog can be treated successfully largely depends on what has caused the condition to develop, which as mentioned, is not always clear. If the condition has been caused by an injury to the head such as a knock or a bump, or by a high count of internal parasites, the condition can sometimes be effectively treated.

However, if the condition is caused by problems such as canine distemper or an adverse reaction to a vaccination, the chorea cannot always be resolved, and may prove fatal.

The focus of treatment for canine chorea involves keeping the dog as comfortable as possible and reducing their stress and anxiety, and regaining control of the dog’s bladder and bowels to keep them from toileting uncontrollably. Underlying conditions that may be leading to chorea, such as a high worm count or the effects of a head injury will also need to be treated, which can help to resolve the problem too.

In some cases, homeopathic remedies have been utilised in the treatment of canine chorea when traditional treatment options have failed, however, homeopathy is still a relatively unknown form of alternative medicine, and its efficacy and core principles are not universally recognised as being effective.

What is the prognosis for affected dogs?

The prognosis for a dog with chorea will depend on a wide range of factors, with the key element being what was responsible for causing the condition in the first place.

If the underlying cause of the issue, such as a head injury or internal worms can be treated, the condition will resolve itself once the underlying problem itself has been resolved.

However, in some cases, chorea is irreversible and will not respond to attempts to treat it, in which case, the disease often proves fatal, or the decision may be made to put the dog to sleep to avoid prolonging their suffering if their quality of life is severely impacted.

The overall prognosis will also depend on other factors, including the age of the dog, their general health aside from their condition, and how well they respond to attempts to treat the condition.

As the causes of chorea cannot always be fully discovered, there are only limited steps that can be taken to prevent chorea from arising, and it is not a condition that can be predicted or identified for risk. However, ensuring that your dog is wormed regularly and does not carry a high parasite count, and that they are kept safe from injuries and accidents can go some way towards reducing the risk of the condition developing.

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