A closer look: Weakness in Dogs
Weakness is a common symptom which can be a feature of many diseases. Mild, gradual onset of weakness is usually not urgent, however, severe, sudden onset weakness is a serious medical emergency.
Severity varies significantly. Progressive conditions such as degenerative myelopathy, a condition where the nerve fibers of the spine stop communicating effectively, initially present with mild weakness but progress to collapse within 6-12 months.
Other conditions, such as hypothyroidism, result in mild weakness which does not progress over time.
Conditions such as traumatic injuries affecting the spinal cord or internal bleeding present with severe weakness or collapse, usually with a rapid onset. These conditions require emergency veterinary attention.
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Weakness is a generalized sign of illness, so the possible causes are numerous and varied.
Weakness is sometimes seen alongside other symptoms that can indicate a more severe underlying condition.
Cases of weakness always warrant prompt veterinary attention.
Testing and diagnosis
Diagnosis of weakness in dogs involves investigation of the underlying condition and includes:
- Physical examination including neurological and orthopedic examination
- Blood tests
- Muscle biopsies
- Diagnostic imaging
- Specific tests such as Tensilon test for myasthenia gravis, and stimulation tests for muscle or nerve disorders.
Treatment options are specific to the underlying condition but may include:
- Surgical intervention
Dogs that are unable to move normally due to conditions such as joint disease or spinal disc extrusion may appear weak, however typically the symptoms seen in these dogs are associated with pain rather than true weakness.