Myotonia In Dogs – Symptoms And Treatments

by Alexandra Madani

Rhodesian-Ridgeback-Myotonia

Myotonia is a hereditary muscle disease that is only know to affect certain breeds, such as Chow Chows, Miniature Schnauzers, Great Danes, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, pit bulls and some variations of spaniels, setters and retrievers.  Myotonia will causes your dog to be unable to relax his or her muscles after use.  This can be especially problematic in more athletic breeds where the muscles will remain tense after an exercise session.  In most cases, the disease does not progress and remains the same throughout the dog’s lifespan.  In severe cases or in instances where the condition cannot be managed, the dog is typically euthanised.

Unfortunately, there is no prevention for myotonia outside of careful breeding.  If you are looking into purchasing a puppy of a breed known to carry myotonia, make sure that you discuss the disease with your breeder.  Though the risk of contraction is reduced because the disease can only be passed on to a litter when both parents are carriers, it is important to talk to your breeder about the possibility.  There are tests available to determine whether a sire or dam is a carrier for myotonia and responsible breeders of at-risk breeds should have these tests performed.  It is imperative that no dog who is a carrier of myotonia be bred.  The disease is recessive and with careful, responsible breeding, can be eliminated from the bloodlines of affected breeds.

Symptoms can appear as early as puppyhood, but it is not impossible for the disease to only become apparent later in life.  If your dog is suffering from myotonia, the animal will have a stiff walk or “bunny hop”, will have trouble standing and lying down, and may exhibit difficulty swallowing or an unusual bark while affected.  If your dog displays any of these characteristics of the disease, your veterinarian can do both muscle stimulation and blood tests to determine if myotonia is present.

There is no cure for myotonia in dogs, and there are very, very few treatment options.  In some cases, a drug called procainamide can be prescribed to limit reduce the negative effects of the disease.  Procaiamide is typically used for cardiac arrhythmias but has been proven to help relieve the symptoms of myotonia in a number of cases.  It will not, however, cure the disease, and the affected dog will still be a carrier.

It is not impossible for a dog with myotonia to live a full life, but it is important to take extra steps with an affected pet to ensure their safety and comfort.  Always discuss options with your veterinarian.

Image Source: http://adogbreeds.com

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