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Leukodystrophy in Dogs and Cats…. Symptoms, expectations and costs!

Leukodystrophy is one of the comparatively rare crossover diseases that effects both cats and dogs which is why we wanted to take a few moments and discuss exactly what it is.

After all…

Many of us pet owners have both cats and dogs, which means that we could be at “double the risk” of one day having a pet being diagnosed with this condition which is why it only makes sense to know a little bit about it… right?

And that’s where…

The problems start.  You see, leukodystrophy is not necessarily a definitive condition within itself, but rather reflects a collection of diseases that all do the same thing, or a condition of similar symptoms that has not been formally identified yet.

And unfortunately…

These “problems” have proven themselves to be an inherited condition that can be passed on from your pup’s parents, so you should always be aware that a family history of this condition gives your dog a higher chance of suffering from it.


Leukodystrophy attacks the body’s immune system and ultimately ends up with your pup being paralyzed. It can strike from as young as two weeks old but, due to its evasive nature and seemingly non-threatening symptoms it can be hard to diagnose. This often leads to the pup or dog being farther along the path towards paralysis before you realize there is something wrong.

But even…

Worse than the length of time it takes to diagnose is the lack of treatment options. And unfortunately, there are no known treatments or cures for this condition as of yet.


There are treatments for the individual disorders which comprise Leukodystrophy, so your veterinarian will probably still be able to do at least something. That said however, if your dog has had this diagnosis, be prepared for some hefty bills.

So, let’s take a closer look at this condition and see exactly what it is that we are dealing with.


All of the Leukodystrophies have one thing in common: they all relate to an inability in the body to produce myelin. This process is known as demyelinating, but even with that similarity the diseases vary from breed to breed. Myelin is also sometimes known as white matter due to its white, fatty nature.

This loss of myelin means…

That the protective surface of the peripheral nerves can no longer sustain itself and it starts to degenerate. This autosomal recessive genetic trait will present clinical signs as a:

  • Loss of coordination,
  • Trouble with normal walking and running,
  • And tremors in the extremities.

This protective sleeve is known as the Myelin Sheath and it helps nerve impulses travel throughout the body. If you interrupt these signals the brain will start to lose complete control of the body. You can see why that might be a problem.


All of the leukodystrophies are lysosomal storage diseases as well, which simply means that the dog’s body has trouble storing a specific vitamin or mineral that is necessary for the normal bodily functioning of day to day life.

Causes of Leukodystrophy

Leukodystrophy has been traced via the sources of the individual diseases that comprise it, all of which have been genetically mapped. It is believed that a mutation of the Galc Gene (Galactosylceramidase) is responsible. The dog simply doesn’t have the inherited ability to produce the minerals needed to sustain it, so other ways must be found to provide this mineral before paralysis takes hold.

There is one notable…

Type of Leukodystrophy, that of Globoid Cell Leukodystrophy or Krabbe’s Disease. It differs from the rest because it gains its inability to produce myelin from an inherited enzymatic deficiency rather than a genetic mutation. Unfortunately, GCL has a 100% fatality rate although there are things your vet can do to make your pet more comfortable.

Breeds affected

Since this is an inherited condition it is fairly breed specific. Each of the breed types has its own named disorder, as below:

Diagnosis of Leukodystrophy in dogs and cats

Diagnosis of Leukodystrophy will include extensive testing, including MRI scanning and other screening tests. It will also require the employment of a veterinary neurologist, all of which adds up. If your pet has a confirmed diagnosis it will be a downward spiral from there on in.

Treatment Options

As we’ve already mentioned, there are no known treatments for Leukodystrophy, but there are treatments to ease symptoms. Physical Therapy and medications may be employed to slow and manage symptoms. Consult your vet for information on your breed specific disorder.

Which brings us to…

Were we like to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians or medical professionals.  All we are is a bunch of folks who just happen to be passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them.

This is why…

If you feel like your pet may have leukodystrophy (or any other health issue for that matter) the first thing that you’re going to want to do is have him or her check out by a vet ASAP!


The truth is, an early diagnosis will often lead to the “best” medical outcome for your pet regardless of what is bothering him or her, but beyond that diagnosing a medical condition early could save you a bundle in medical costs!

Which is why…

We here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now will a pet insurance policy be right for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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