Although rare, dogs can develop Parkinson's disease, a condition similar to that found in humans. In humans, Parkinson's is typically associated with age, but dog Parkinson's is more likely a hereditary condition. If your dog develops symptoms of Parkinson's disease, take him to a vet right away to rule out other conditions and confirm the diagnosis. While there is no cure for the disease, there are treatment options that can help.
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Symptoms of Parkinson's disease in dogs
Dog Parkinson's is a progressive condition that will worsen over time. It affects the neurological system, and common symptoms include tremors in the limbs, restlessness, fidgeting, and stiff muscles. You may also notice that your dog moves cautiously and is not as quick as she used to be.
These symptoms are very similar to what is seen in humans with Parkinson's. In humans, symptoms include shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with coordination and balance. People don't generally develop the disease until they are over 60.
Cause and diagnosis of dog Parkinson's
Dog Parkinson's disease is a condition caused when the dog starts to lose the nerve cells that produce dopamine. Dopamine is critical to the neurological control of muscles, and the lack of dopamine causes the shaking and other muscle-related symptoms. In dogs, the condition is thought to be hereditary, but the specific causes are unknown. Injuries may also play a role in the development and worsening of the disease.
There is no single test to diagnose dog Parkinson's. Your veterinarian will review your dog's history and give him a complete medical examination to rule out other potential causes for his symptoms. In many cases, you may be referred to a veterinary neurologist to confirm the diagnosis. Additional testing may include a CT scan or MRI so your vet can review images of your dog's brain. A correct diagnosis is key to providing the best treatment to extend your dog's life as much as possible.
There are many other conditions that may cause your dog's legs to shake or the loss of coordination seen with Parkinson's. Encephalitis, or brain inflammation caused by an infection or parasite, and brain tumors can cause shaking and balance problems. Ataxia and stroke will both cause loss of balance. However, with these conditions, your dog will also likely walk in circles, and you may notice a head tilt. An inner ear infection can also affect balance, and other symptoms may include head shaking and ear odor and discharge.
Canine Parkinson's treatment options
Unfortunately, there is no cure for dog Parkinson's. Over your pup's lifetime, the disease will progress, and your dog's symptoms will worsen. However, there are things that may help slow the progression of the disease and help to ensure your dog enjoys the time she has.
Your veterinarian may prescribe medications to assist in managing muscle tremors and to maintain your dog's muscle mass, which can dwindle as your pup becomes less active. Dietary supplements may also help with the condition. SAMe, or S-adenosyl-methionine, for example, is a supplement that is used in humans with Parkinson's and is also safe for your dog. Be sure to discuss dosage and suitability with your veterinarian before adding any supplements to your dog's treatment plan.
Your veterinarian may also recommend physical therapy exercises. This will help your dog maintain muscle mass and muscle and joint mobility and may reduce pain.