Nervous system problems in dogs

Nervous system problems in dogs

The nerve system is absolutely imperative for the dog, since it is responsible for knowing the environment around the dog as well as identifying and controlling everything that goes on inside the body. When a dog suffers from a disease that affects the nervous system, a wide range of symptoms can appear. It can be difficult for the veterinarian to deliver a definite diagnosis without extensive testing since a lot of diseases and conditions that affect the nervous system of a dog create similar symptoms.

Just as in a human being, the nervous system of the dog is responsible for muscle coordination, organ monitoring, and action initiation. The nervous system will also construct and stop input from the dog’s senses. The nervous system consists of many different parts, including neurons and nerves. The nervous system of the dog can be divided into tow main divisions: the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS).

The central nervous system consists of the brain and the spinal cord, while the nerve tissue in the rest of the dog’s body belongs to the peripheral nervous system. In the central nervous system, you will find the brain, the spinal cord, the cerebellum, the pituitary gland and the raquideous bulb. The spinal cord has two major tasks: it transmits information to and from the brain, and it handles reflex actions. If the dog suffers from a health problem that affects the spinal cord, it can develop problems with its reflexes. If you take a look at a healthy dog, you will notice a wide range of reflex-actions. The dog will twitch its ears when it tries to identify a specific sound, it will blink if something is irritating the eye, all the hair on its body will stand up in certain situations, and so on.

The peripheral nervous system partly consists of sensory fibers and motor neurons, which together form what we call nerves. A nerve is accordingly a bundle consisting of both sensory fibres and motor neurons.

A system as intricate as the dog’s nervous system is naturally susceptible to a wide range of health problems. Some disorders are hereditary, such as Scotty Cramp, an inherited lack of serotonin that causes spasms in Scottish Terriers. Hereditary disease can be avoided by careful breeding programs that aim to breed only healthy dogs. In the case of Scotty Cramp, we know that the disease is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait, which can help breeders to determine which dogs to use for breeding purposes.

In other situations, a puppy is born with a nervous system disease without having inherited from its parents. This is true for diseases that can spread from the mother to the unborn puppies while they are still in the womb. The canine herpes virus is for instance known to cause incomplete development of the cerebellum in puppies, a condition known as cerebellar hypoplasia. 

A lot of nervous system diseases are acquired diseases, and sometimes the dog owners can do things to reduce the risk of the dog acquiring such diseases. Tick paralysis, a disease caused by a neurotoxin present in the saliva of female ticks from certain species, can for instance be prevented by checking your dog for ticks once a day and never allow a tick to stay attached to your dog for more than 24 hours. There are also vaccines available for some diseases that attack the nervous system of the dog, including vaccine against the much feared rabies virus. (You can find more information about rabies in the section about viral infections.)

Nervous system diseases: (click for more info)
Cauda Equina Syndrome in dogs
Cerebellar abiotrophy in dogs
Cerebellar hypoplasia in dogs
Coonhound paralysis (polyradiculoneuritis) in dogs
Dancing Doberman Disease
Epilepsy in dogs
Facial nerve paralysis in dogs
Granulomatous meningoencephalitis in dogs
Laryngeal paralysis in dogs
Polyneuropathy in dogs
Scotty Cramp in dogs
Syringomyelia in dogs
Tick paralysis in dogs
White dog shaker syndrome
Wobbler disease in dogs