≡ Menu

Muscular Dystrophy in Dogs… Symptoms, expectations and costs!

Muscular dystrophy in dogs isn’t that common, but if your dog does get the disease, then there is a lot you need to know. The first of which is that it’s not an easy thing to live with – for you or your dog – but with the right care and treatment it can be a lot smoother.

This is why…

We wanted to take a moment and discuss exactly what muscular dystrophy is in dogs and what it might be like to own a dog who has been diagnosed with this condition.  This way you’ll be better prepared to take on the challenges that are ahead of you and be sure to provide your buddy the quality of like he or she deserves.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in.

What is Muscular Dystrophy?

Muscular dystrophy is what’s known as a progressive disease of the muscles. Basically, what happens is that the muscle-membrane protein has a deficiency that causes the muscles to breakdown over time.

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in Dogs

Duchenne muscular dystrophy DMD (or x-linked muscular dystrophy) is a more severe type of muscular dystrophy where there is a specific gene mutation that is the cause of the disease. Surprisingly…

Most of the information that we have about DMD has been brought to us as the result of a study that was performed at Boston Children’s Hospital using two golden retrievers.

In this study…

The two dogs remained relatively healthy despite having the gene for DMD. The reason for this is that both of these dogs had Jagged1 which is a muscle regeneration gene.


The presence of Jagged1 to the level necessary for good health is rare. However, these dogs are a canine model that might help to bring about better treatment options for dogs and humans later.

Muscular Dystrophy in Dogs

Back to “ordinary” muscular dystrophy. It is inherited and certain breeds are more susceptible.

For example, in a golden retriever muscular dystrophy is much more common than others, particularly male golden retrievers. Other breeds that are at risk of carrying the gene include:

Female dogs…

Are also less likely than male dogs in all breeds. Remember, just because these breeds are more likely to get it doesn’t mean another breed cannot get muscular dystrophy. However, if you do purchase any of these breeds from a breeder the best thing you can do is get a full family history to know if your dog is at risk.

Symptoms of muscular dystrophy in dogs

If you think your dog has muscular dystrophy, it might be because you see some common symptoms such as:

  • Exercise intolerance (not wanting to exercise).
  • Vomiting or bowel problems.
  • Drooling more than normal.
  • Disproportional muscle mass: some muscles will get bigger to compensate the muscle weakness of others).
  • Hunched Back.
  • Skeletal muscle problems/ problems in walking.
  • Issues in muscle function.

Diagnosis of muscular dystrophy in dogs

Typically, one of the first things that your vet will want to know about is if your dog has a family history of suffering from muscular dystrophy.  If so, this will definitely help your vet “narrow” down the options as to why your dog is suffering from the symptoms he or she has.

From there…

They’ll likely perform a physical examination on your dog and ask you about any of the symptoms that you’ve witnessed yourself.  Then if they still suspect that something is seriously wrong with your pet, the vet is likely to do a series of tests including a urinalysis and complete blood count. He/she may also check creatine levels and liver enzyme levels to check on dystrophin protein deficiency.

That said however…

Ultimately for a final verdict a vet will ask that you get a muscle biopsy of your dog done. The only thing that can fully diagnose muscular dystrophy is to look at the muscle cells and analyze them. Usually vets don’t normally jump strait to a biopsy, however, because they want to rule out other possibilities before diagnosing canine muscular dystrophy.

Treatment of muscular dystrophy in dogs

Unfortunately, there is still no cure for muscular dystrophy in dogs or humans. Instead, the best you can do is help your dog live a fulfilling life. Some medications may help your dog alleviate symptoms.

In particular…

Glucocorticosteroids are the most common drug. However, some people do say they have side effects that aren’t worth it. You should discuss all this with your vet before starting your dog on medications.

Surgery may be required if limb deformity has occurred. This could help with the dog’s muscle function.

Other things you…

Can do is make sure your dog’s home is comfortable and everything is within reach. Don’t make your dog walk more than he or she feels comfortable doing. Don’t push your dog beyond his/her limitations. And also, be sure he/she has a comfortable place to sleep all night.

Life Expectancy of dogs suffering from muscular dystrophy

The life expectancy of a dog that has muscular dystrophy is substantially shorter than normal dogs. In fact, some may not even live past five years old.

Of course…

There is the chance of your dog being like the two golden retrievers at Boston’s Children Hospital…but that is unlikely. If you have a dog with muscular dystrophy, you are in for a very sobering experience and the best you can do is love your pup as much as you can and offer him or her a few good years.

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 muscular dystrophy (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!

Costs of treating muscular dystrophy in dogs

The one thing is that you won’t have too many medical expenses with muscular dystrophy since treatment options are limited. Instead, you’ll really only have the costs associated with diagnosis.


what if your dog does not have muscular dystrophy?  You might be lucky now…  but will you always?

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.

{ 0 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment