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Polyneuropathy is a nerve disorder that affects multiple peripheral nerves. Unlike the central nervous system, which has the vertebrae of the spine, and the bone of the skull to protect it, the peripheral nerves are more exposed to the elements that enter into the body and come into contact with the body, so they are more susceptible to physical injury and toxic damage. They are spread over the entire body, and are responsible for conscious, coordinated movement (somatic), for automatic physical responses (autonomic), and for the movement of the digestive system (enteric).
Myelin, the white, fatty, lipid material that acts as an insulator coat (also called a sheath) for some nerve fibers, can be lost through a process called demyelination, a condition that causes the myelin to deteriorate, resulting in electrical signals in the nerves being lost, and impairing function. Or, there may be axonal degeneration with secondary demyelination. Axonal degeneration occurs when the actual nerve fibers deteriorate within the myelin sheath.
Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your dog, taking into account the background history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition. A chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel, and a urinalysis will be used for confirming, or for ruling out any underlying diseases. Your veterinarian may also opt to perform additional blood tests, and a spinal tap, to look for specific disorders.
Chest and abdominal x-rays can be crucial for diagnosing visible peripheral polyneuropathies. X-ray and ultrasound imaging can help to rule out (or confirm) cancer, but the most important diagnostic tool for identifying peripheral neuropathies is electrophysiology – measuring the electrical flow of the body's tissues and cells. An analysis of tissue sample (biopsy) from the muscles or peripheral nerves can provide further information about the disease process your dog is experiencing.
Animals can usually be treated on an outpatient basis. However, dogs with acute polyradiculoneuropathies will have inflammation at the roots of the spinal cord nerves, and are at risk of respiratory failure. They should be hospitalized for observation in the early phase of the disease to prevent this. Dogs with dysautonomia should be hospitalized to receive fluid therapy and/or administered (parenteral) feeding.
Dogs with hyperchylomicronemia, conversely, may spontaneously recover after two to three months of being fed a low-fat diet. Dogs that have been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus should have their blood glucose and diet closely monitored.
An excellent related treatment for patients with peripheral polyneuropathies is physiotherapy, for encouraging restoration of the affected musculature and nerve memory.
It is important to understand that the cause of many polyneuropathies can never be determined, and treatment of the primary cause of polyneuropathy may not cure your dog. In some cases, the peripheral nerves will continue to deteriorate, and your dog's disease will worsen.
Dogs that have been diagnosed with congenital or inherited forms of polyneuropathies should not be bred. Generally, it is advisable to neuter an animal that is suffering from this condition to prevent accidental breeding. For example, female dogs that have been infected with the Neospora parasite should not be bred, since one of the ways the parasite transmits itself is by spreading to the fetus through the placenta.
Dogs that have developed coonhound paralysis (polyradiculoneuritis) will need to be protected from repeated exposure to raccoons, since the initial infection does not impart later immunity from it.
A gland that aids in both digestive and insulin functions
A bundle of fibers that are used in the process of sending impulses through the body
A type of covering over certain nerve cells; may be found in areas of the spinal cord or on the brain’s white matter
The administration of something through a route other than the normal route, which is through the gastro intestinal tract
Something that is used to refer to the tissues of the body
An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness
A gland found in the neck of humans and animals that secretes glands responsible for metabolic rate, calcitonin, and others.
Small, wingless insects that live as parasites on humans and some animals
The organ of mammals that comes while a female is pregnant; may also be referred to as afterbirth
A hormone created by the pancreas that helps to regulate the flow of glucose
Term used to indicate something related to the axon.
The part of the nervous system that contains the nerves that control involuntary movement.
The wasting away of certain tissues; a medical condition that occurs when tissues fail to grow.
The process of removing tissue to examine it, usually for medical reasons.
When myelin is lost or destroyed
The tube that extends from the mouth to the stomach
Term used to imply that a situation or condition is more severe than usual; also used to refer to a disease having run a short course or come on suddenly.