Juvenile Polyarteritis and Beagle Pain Syndrome in Dogs
Juvenile polyarteritis, also referred to medically as beagle pain syndrome, is a systemic disease that is seemingly of genetic origin, affecting only certain breeds. It is most commonly reported in young beagles, although a similar syndrome has been reported in other breeds, most notably boxers and Bernese mountain dogs. This disease is rare, and can be defined as a simultaneous inflammation of an artery, or several arteries, with irritation, or infection, of the small vessels in the spinal cord in the neck and in the heart.
Symptoms of the condition seem to come and go, with indications that suggest a serious bacterial infection: high fever, pain, and a high white blood cell count. This common misdiagnoses makes juvenile polyarteritis difficult to treat, since antibiotics have no effect. If your veterinarian does not suspect beagle pain syndrome, and your pet is showing indications of this condition, it would be wise to ask your doctor to consider it. Especially if your dog has already gone through a course of antibiotics. This condition can also be referenced as necrotizing vasculitis: inflammation and tissue death of a vessel.
Symptoms and Types
- Neck pain
- Stiff neck
- Lowered head
- Hunched back
- Grunting when lifted
- Muscle spasms (especially in front legs and neck)
- Lack of appetite
- Unwillingness to move
For a beagle puppy that is suffering from this condition, opening the jaw will seem to be painful, and the puppy will be reluctant to bark. The symptoms usually will become apparent when the puppy is four to ten months of age, but the condition can manifest at an older age as well. It may resolve itself without treatment, but even if it does, it will typically return within a few months.
A latent genetic factor is believed to be one of the causes for juvenile polyarteritis, since only some breeds are susceptible. Medical researchers also suspect a related auto-immune factor.
Bacterial meningitis, inflammation of a vertebral disc, spinal tumor, and cervical disc disease should be ruled out before confirming a diagnosis of juvenile polyarteritis. X-rays tend not to show evidence of disease if necrotizing vasculitis is present. A spinal tap is usually better for determining the nature of the disease. While this is a form of meningitis, its source is not bacterial, so antibacterial medications will not resolve the condition.
Your veterinarian will need to conduct a full blood work-up for further confirmation, and the lab results may show anemia (low red blood cells), a high white blood cell count indicating infection, or other blood abnormalities. There will usually be an attendant fever, also an indication of infection.
Prednisone, an anti-inflammatory, immunosuppressive medication similar to cortisone, is the usual treatment of choice. Patients tend to show rapid improvement in just a few days, but even so, relapses often occur when the medication is discontinued. Continuing treatment for a longer period of time, like six months, will sometimes result in permanent resolution. At the outset of therapy, steroid treatment should be administered at a level that will produce a remission of the symptoms, and then your veterinarian can recommend a regimen of oral therapy. Over the course of treatment, the amount will be reduced slowly to the lowest possible dose needed to control symptoms. If symptoms return, steroid treatment will need to begin again.
Living and Management
One of the side effects of steroid treatment is fluid retention and increased thirst. To prevent accidents or discomfort on your dog's behalf, you will need to take your dog out frequently for urination, even if only for a small amount. A calm, quiet environment, where your pet will not be stimulated, is important. Moving will be painful during the recovery process, and it will benefit your dog if you give it an isolated space, away from children or animals, at least until the symptoms have subsided. Even after recovery, you will need to be alert to the possibility that your dog may have a relapse.