Muscular dystrophy in dogs isn’t that common, but if your dog gets the disease, there is a lot you need to know. The first is that it’s not easy to live with – for you or your dog – but it can be much smoother with the proper care and treatment. This is why we wanted to take a moment and discuss precisely 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 ahead of you and provide your buddy the quality of life they deserve.
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. What happens is that the muscle-membrane protein has a deficiency that causes the forces to break down 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 we have about DMD has been brought to us as the result of a study 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. Unfortunately, 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, muscular dystrophy is much more common in a golden retriever than others, mainly male golden retrievers. Other species that are at risk of carrying the gene include:
- Belgian Shepherds,
- Welsh corgis,
- Labrador retrievers,
- German short-haired pointers,
- Miniature Schnauzers.
They are also less likely than male dogs in all breeds. Just because these breeds are more likely to get it doesn’t mean another species cannot get muscular dystrophy. However, if you purchase any of these breeds from a breeder, the best thing you can do is get a complete 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 usual.
- Disproportional muscle mass: Some muscles will get bigger to compensate for 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 your vet will want to know about is if your dog has a family history of suffering from muscular dystrophy. If so, this will help your vet “narrow” down the options for why your dog is suffering from the symptoms they have.
They’ll likely physically examine your dog and ask about any symptoms you’ve witnessed. Then, if they still suspect something is seriously wrong with your pet, the vet will likely do a series of tests, including a urinalysis and complete blood count. They may also check creatine and liver enzyme levels for dystrophin protein deficiency.
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 straight to a biopsy because they want to rule out other possibilities before diagnosing canine muscular dystrophy.
Unfortunately, no cure for muscular dystrophy exists 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 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…
What you can do is make sure your dog’s home is comfortable and everything is within reach. Please don’t make your dog walk more than they feel comfortable doing. Please don’t push your dog beyond its limitations. Also, be sure they have a comfortable place to sleep all night.
The life expectancy of a dog with muscular dystrophy is substantially shorter than that of normal dogs. 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’s 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 them a few good years.
Which brings us to…
We want to remind folks that we at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians, or medical professionals. We are all a bunch of folks 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), you will want to have them checked out by a vet ASAP! An early diagnosis will often lead to the “best” medical outcome for your pet regardless of what is bothering them, but beyond that, diagnosing a medical condition early could save you a bundle in medical costs!
Costs of Treatment
The one thing is that you won’t have too many medical expenses with muscular dystrophy since treatment options are limited. Instead, you’ll only have the costs associated with diagnosis. However, what if your dog does not have muscular dystrophy? You might be lucky now… but will you always?
This is why we here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.
Now, will a pet insurance policy be suitable 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.