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Paroxysmal Dyskinesia in Welsh Terriers
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Paroxysmal Dyskinesia in Welsh Terriers

Dogs
Health & Safety

Welsh Terriers are generally a healthy breed with few health concerns. However, one of the conditions that can affect these lovely terriers is known as paroxysmal dyskinesia or PD. The disorder affects a dog's movements and sees them experiencing “attacks” of involuntary muscle activity. Although more reports of Welsh Terriers suffering from the disorder are coming to light, all too often a vet and owner may mistake an episode"" as being an epileptic seizure.

The disorder explained

The actual terms used for the condition ""paroxysmal"" refers to a sudden onset of a seizure when a dog otherwise has been acting normally while “dyskinesia” refers to a dog's involuntary body movements which occur when they are totally aware of their surroundings, but cannot control muscle movements. When dogs are not experiencing an attack, they behave normally and remain conscious throughout. With this said, dogs can feel disoriented and unnerved afterwards which can affect their responses to any sort of stimulation. An ""attack"" can occur in clusters and can last for minutes or for several hours.

The nerve cells responsible for controlling ""movement"" are found in a part of the brain known as the ""basal nuclei"" which is also referred to as the basal ganglia and it is when these nerve cells are negatively impacted that a dog loses control of muscle movement. To date, research has not identified the cause of why some Welsh Terriers and other breeds are affected by the condition and as such the disorder is referred to as being ""idiopathic"".

With this said, in humans, who can also suffer from the disorder, there is some belief that the condition is inherited and therefore is a genetic disorder of familial origin. It is also worth noting that in some people, the disorder can occur due to another underlying condition they may be suffering from namely a tumour, stroke or some kind of severe infection that negatively impacts their basal nuclei.

The breeds most affected

Welsh Terriers are among some of the breeds that appear to be the most affected by PD, although the condition has been reported in other breeds too and this includes the following:

  • Border Terrier
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Norwich Terrier
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Boxer
  • Dalmatian
  • Bichon Frise
  • Pug
  • Chinook

However, other breeds too have been reported as showing signs of a very similar movement disorder which includes the following:

  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Labrador Retriever

Signs to watch out for

When dogs suffer from PD, there are certain signs to watch out for which could be an indication they are showing the first symptoms of the disorder. These are as follows:

  • Spasms and cramping in their back legs
  • An increase in muscle tone in affected limbs

It is worth noting that although all four legs can be affected by the disorder, it is typically a dog's back legs that appear to be affected the most. A Welsh Terrier that suffers an attack is dramatically affected by the episode due to the fact they lose control of their movements. With this said, a lot of dogs will try to walk during an attack which can be triggered by several things including the following:

  • Exercise
  • Excitement

Diagnosing the condition

Unfortunately, the condition can easily be misdiagnosed by vets because the symptoms a dog displays when experiencing an ""attack"" are similar to those of a dog experiencing an epileptic fit. As such, a definitive diagnosis is essential although this can prove challenging as in-between suffering an attack, a dog is perfectly normal. Things are not made easier by the fact that when a vet carries out a neurological evaluation on a dog suspected of suffering from PD the results come back perfectly normal too. As such, a vet would need to have a dog's complete medical history and be told their parentage to establish whether any dogs in their lineage suffered from similar symptoms.

A vet would also need to know that when a dog experiences an attack, they do not lose bladder or bowel control and that they do not drool or salivate excessively during an attack. It is also essential to evaluate that a dog does not lose consciousness while having an attack. Very often, a vet would ask an owner to make a video of a dog during an attack which helps them make a final evaluation.

A vet would also want to eliminate any other causes of why a Welsh Terrier is experiencing movement issues including inflammatory central nervous system (CNS) disease by carrying out a MRI scan along with other tests as follows:

  • Cerebrospinal fluid analysis (CSF)
  • A complete blood count
  • Serum biochemical evaluation
  • A Urinalysis

Treatment options

Unfortunately, the condition often proves challenging when it comes to treatment options although diet can play an important role with some dogs responding well to a being fed a gluten-free one. In general, they do not respond well to any sort of medication when treating PD and this includes anti-epileptic drugs. Most vets typically recommend only treating dogs suffering from PD when they experience frequent attacks which is typically more than one a week.

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