Last updated on 09/03/2021
Dysautonomia is a multiple system neurologic disease of unknown origin. The disease occurs in horses (equine grass sickness), dogs, rabbits, hares, sheep, alpacas and llamas. It is characterised by destruction of enteric neurons, peripheral and central autonomic neurons, neurons in specific brain stem nuclei and spinal cord lower motor neurons. Genetic factor of susceptibility to dysautonomia has been proposed. Risk factors for dogs may include consumption of wildlife, spending the majority of time outdoors, access to cattle, pasture land and farm ponds. Canine dysautonomia is not uncommon in parts of the US Midwest.
Most dogs affected by the disease are young adults. Clinical signs develop within two weeks, although chronic disease developing over four years has also been reported. Most common signs include nasal congestion, retching, vomiting/regurgitation, megaesophagus, inability to swallow, prolapse of the third eyelid, urinary incontinence or inability to urinate, fecal incontinence, constipation, diarrhea, decreased tear production, and abdominal pain. Lethargy, weight loss and dehydration have also been reported.
Treatment for dysautonomia is limited to supportive and symptomatic therapy. Prognosis is reported to be grave, and most dogs die within weeks to months after the onset of clinical signs. In some cases, affected dogs have survived 16 months after diagnosis.
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- Practical Guide to Canine and Feline Neurology. Edited by Curtis W. Dewey, Ronaldo C. da Costa
- Autonomic dysfunction in a Jack Russell terrier. Can Vet J. 2011 Mar; 52(3): 297–299.