Glycogen Storage Disease in Dogs


PetMD Editorial

Published Nov. 5, 2008

Glycogenosis in Dogs

Glycogen storage disease, also known as glycogenosis, is characterized by deficient or defective activity of the enzymes responsible for metabolizing glycogen in the body. It is a rare inherited disorder with various types, all of which lead to the accumulation of glycogen, the main carbohydrate storage material in the body which aids short term energy storage in cells by converting to glucose as the body needs it for metabolic requirements. This abnormal accumulation in the tissues can result in the enlargement and dysfunction of various organs, including the liver, heart, and kidneys.

There are four types of glycogenoses known to affect dogs, with certain species being more susceptible to some of these than others. Type I-a, more commonly known as von Gierke’s disease, occurs primarily in Maltese puppies; Type II, Pompe’s disease, occurs in Lapland dogs, usually beginning around six months of age; Type III, Cori’s disease, occurs in young female German Shepherds; and Type VII affects English Spring Spaniels aged two to nine.

Symptoms and Types

Type I-a, usually found in Maltese puppies, may result in failure to thrive, mental depression, low blood sugar (a condition known as hypoglycemia), and eventually death (or, to avoid symptoms, euthanasia) by sixty days of age.

Type II, usually found in Lapland dogs, is characterized by vomiting, progressive muscle weakness, and cardiac abnormalities. Death usually occurs before two years of age.


Type III, usually found in German Shepherds, results in depression, weakness, failure to grow, and mild hypoglycemia.

Type IV, found in English Spring Spaniels, results in hemolytic anemia, a condition in which red blood cells are destroyed, and hemoglobinuria, a condition in which the protein hemoglobin (which helps transport oxygen throughout the body) is abnormally highly concentrated in the patient’s urine.


The various forms of glycogenoses all result from some sort of deficiency in glucose-metabolizing enzymes in the body. The types are distinguished by the specific enzyme deficiency. In dogs, Type I-a results from deficiency of glucose-6-phosphatase, Type II from a deficiency of acid glucosidase, Type III from a deficiency of amylo-1 and 6-glucosidase, and Type VII from a deficiency of phosphofructokinase. Type IV, found in cats, results from a deficiency of the glycogen branching enzyme.


Diagnostic procedures will vary depending on the symptoms and suspected type of glycogen storage disease at hand. A tissue enzyme analysis and determination of glycogen levels can serve as a definitive diagnosis. Other tests may include urine analysis, genetic testing, and electrocardiography (ECG) to check the electrical output from the heart for changes.


Care will vary depending on the type of glycogen storage disease diagnosed and the severity of the symptoms. Types I-a and III in dogs may require the administration of intravenous (IV) dextrose in order to manage an immediate crisis of dangerously low blood sugar. Unfortunately, long-term management of this condition is futile. Related hypoglycemia may also be regulated with diet, by feeding frequent portions of a high-carbohydrate diet.

Living and Management

Upon diagnosis, your dog will need to be continuously monitored and treated for hypoglycemia. However, there is not much that can be done to reverse this condition. Most animals suffering from glycogenosis are euthanized due to the progressive deterioration of their physical health.


Because this is an inherited disease, animals that develop glycogen storage disease should not be bred, nor should the parents of such animals be bred out again, in order to avoid the possibility of future cases.

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