Idiopathic Polyneuropathy In Dogs

Idiopathic polyneuropathy is an autosomal recessive disorder that affects Alaskan Malamutes. It is what is known as a neuromuscular disease that first presents itself in dogs when they are anything from three to nineteen months of age and the signs of there being something wrong when they suffer from idiopathic polyneuropathy tend to be quite worrying with dogs needing to be examined by a vet sooner rather than later.

Breed Most Affected

Studies have established that the breed most affected by idiopathic polyneuropathy is as follows:

The Causes

Studies have shown that the condition negatively impacts a dog's peripheral nerves and that it can either be a primary hereditary health issue or a secondary problem that develops because another underlying disorder which could include a dog suffering from the following diseases:

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Infections
  • Hereditary disorders
  • Immune-mediated diseases
  • Neoplasia
  • A reaction to certain drugs and medication
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Insulinoma
  • Multicentric lymphoma
  • Disseminated carcinoma

Symptoms Associated with the Disorder

As previously mentioned, affected Alaskan Malamutes typically start to show signs of there being something wrong with them from a young age which can be as early as 3 months after having been born and affected dogs often develop laryngeal and pharyngeal paralysis. The symptoms that present themselves includes the following:

  • A change in their voice
  • High pitched breathing
  • An intolerance to exercise
  • Loss of coordination in their back legs
  • Sensory deficits
  • A reduction in reflexes
  • Regurgitation
  • Vomiting
  • Coughing
  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • A strange paddling-like gait that worsens over time
  • Paralysis

As a dog's condition gets worse, the muscles in their back legs start to waste away which is referred to as atrophy of hind limbs. However, it’s worth noting that the muscles along a dog's spine can also be negatively impacted by the condition. The result is that affected dogs can sometimes have a strange gait appearing to "hop" much like a rabbit rather than walk normally. Should their condition be severe, dogs often find it hard to even walk. However, some affected dogs recover slightly from the condition and go on to lead full and pretty normal lives, whereas in other more severe cases, it is often kinder to put a dog to sleep rather than let them suffer unnecessarily.

Diagnosing the Condition

A vet would ideally need to know a dog's full medical history and their ancestry too. The more information a vet has, the better because it helps establish a diagnosis. The kind of tests a vet would recommend carrying out on a dog suspected of suffering from the condition would be as follows:

  • A complete blood count
  • A urinalysis
  • CSF tests

However, the above tests do not typically offer a definitive diagnosis which in short means more in-depth testing has to be carried out to establish whether a dog is suffering from idiopathic polyneuopathy. As such, other tests a vet would need to carry out could include the following:

  • Tissue biopsies of peripheral nerves

Treatment Options

The sort of treatment a vet would set in place for a dog suffering from the condition would depend on the underlying cause which would need to be resolved first before any other treatment can be prescribed. Should a dog's condition be deemed mild and they have responded well to a treatment, they can go on to have a good quality of life. However, any dog that’s been diagnosed as suffering from idiopathic polyneuropathy would need to be taken for regular health checks with the vet who would reassess their health on an ongoing basis and alter a treatment as needed.


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