Neuromuscular diseases

Neuromuscular diseases

Diseases of the peripheral nervous system (nerves and muscles) can be challenging to identify and often require specialized testing. Recognizing the signs of common neuromuscular diseases can be key in early identification. Important clinical signs to look for include:

  • Exercise intolerance (hallmark sign)
  • Generalized weakness (hallmark sign)
  • Focal or generalized muscle atrophy/hypertrophy
  • Gait abnormalities and/or lameness
  • Megaesophagus (enlarged weak esophagus)
  • Regurgitation or dysphagia (abnormal eating)
  • Stridor or roaring or dysphonia (abnormal breathing sounds or change in voice)
  • Elevated muscle enzymes on blood work (CK, AST)

Neuromuscular diseases can often look like other diseases, including spinal cord disease. Often, diagnostics like an MRI may be useful to rule out other underlying diseases. Next, to evaluate the nerves and muscles, we can do specific functional testing called electrodiagnostic testing. This includes:

  • EMG (electromyogram)
  • Nerve conduction studies
  • Urodynamic studies
  • BAER (brainstem auditory evoked potentials)
  • and more

These tests typically help us tell what nerve or muscle groups are abnormal and direct the collection of muscle and nerve biopsies. These samples then allow us to look at the tissues under a microscope and better identify the underlying disease process and guide treatment plans.

Some common neuromuscular diseases include:

  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Botulism
  • Tetanus
  • Coonhound paralysis, etc

If you are concerned your pet might have a neuromuscular disease, please seek immediate veterinary attention.