In some ways, dogs and people are similar.
Both express love, have a playful side, and remain fiercely loyal to their families.
Unfortunately, just like people, dogs also get Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s is a neurological condition that attacks the motor system and typically leads to mental incapacity in the form of dementia.
If your dog has it, it’s important to get a diagnosis as soon as possible so that you can slow down the progress of the disease.
What Is Parkinson’s Disease in Dogs?
Parkinson’s disease in dogs is similar to the same condition in people.
You may notice a loss of balance and tremors, for example.
There are also a number of differences between human and canine Parkinson’s disease.
This article discusses the signs you should look out for that indicate canine Parkinson’s.
We can also provide tips on caring for your dog diagnosed with this neurological disorder.
It’s important to stress that your veterinarian can provide health advice on your dog with Parkinson’s, and you can always get a second opinion if you believe that your dog doesn’t have the disease.
This can help you prepare for what’s to come.
More About Canine Parkinson’s
Dogs with Parkinson’s disease slowly lose their motor function as a result of the progressive nature of this disease.
Your dog’s nervous system makes it difficult for your dog to move and can eventually affect breathing and other functions.
The disease worsens over time and the journey of each dog may vary slightly. Also, it doesn’t just affect older dogs.
Parkinson’s Disease in Humans vs. Canines
You may wonder how similarly this disease impacts people and dogs.
In reality, the progress of the disease has many parallels in both species.
One major symptom of Parkinson’s is how it affects your movement.
Often, it’s difficult to know what to expect.
You may lose all motor function and become stiff at times if you are a person with Parkinson’s, and your dog may have the same reaction.
Your dog may lose movement in their face or limbs.
Parkinson’s disease causes tremors and shaking in both people and animals.
Pet owners often notice that canine Parkinson’s causes uncontrolled head shaking.
It’s also important to understand how canine Parkinson’s has its own symptoms unique from what humans experience.
You may not notice right away that your dog has the requisite symptoms.
After all your dog can’t talk and doesn’t have the same facial expressions as people.
Also, people with Parkinson’s often slow or slur their words.
There are no reported cases of talking dogs, so you have to look for other ways to recognize the symptoms of canine Parkinson’s.
Commonly, people notice that something isn’t right when Parkinson’s affects their dog’s limbs.
Your dog may have uncontrollable tremors that affect their legs.
Here is another major difference.
Whereas most people who get Parkinson’s disease develop it in their 50s or later, some dogs get it before they reach old age.
In fact, it may be more common in younger dogs.
Does My Dog Have Parkinson’s Disease?
So, how do you tell if your dog has Parkinson’s disease?
We’ve already discussed head shaking and tremors, but there are other things that you need to understand and look out for.
Here are some symptoms that can point to canine Parkinson’s disease:
- Difficulty keeping their balance due to poor muscle and joint control, including stumbling or an uneven gait.
- Stiffness or inflexibility such as struggling to get up or remaining in the same position without looking comfortable.
- Head shaking and involuntary tremors, which are easiest to spot when they occur in one leg. Note that many dogs have what’s called hypnic jerks, which cause tremors in their sleep. This is normal and can happen to dogs of all breeds and ages.
- Poor balance. If your dog develops a “drunk walk,” this could indicate neurological damage. Parkinson’s disease often causes dogs to lose their balance while walking or standing up from a lying or sitting position.
- Anxiety and depression. If your dog’s behavior and life outlook suddenly changed, it could be a result of physical conditions such as those caused by Parkinson’s. If your dog no longer feels like socializing and loses their appetite, this could signal anxiety and depression.
It’s also important to understand that other diseases may have similar symptoms to canine Parkinson’s.
You may feel silly watching your dog, waiting for every twitch or irregular movement.
However, it’s important to understand what other conditions can cause similar symptoms.
Conditions That Cause Similar Symptoms to Parkinson’s
Generalized tremor syndrome describes dogs that have tremors for unknown reasons.
Some breeds are more prone to head shaking and tremors, with or without Parkinson’s playing a role.
Canine kidney disease can also cause tremors, anxiety and depression.
However, symptoms of kidney disease also include infrequent urination and vomiting.
If your dog has arthritis, they may become stiff and have difficulty moving around.
Arthritis can cause your dog to limp and may result in painful joints.
Your vet can help you determine whether your dog has arthritis, Parkinson’s or another condition.
You may not realize that dogs can develop epilepsy.
Canine epilepsy causes unpredictable seizures.
As you can see, just like humans, symptoms in dogs can point to many disorders.
Fortunately, your vet can help you diagnose your dog and provide the proper treatment and advice.
Diagnosing Canine Parkinson’s Disease
Before you go to the veterinarian, it’s important to record your dog’s symptoms.
Your vet will rely on your observations to help provide an accurate diagnosis.
During the exam, they may test your dog’s motor functions and lead them through different exercises.
Your veterinarian may order blood work and scans to determine whether your dog has Parkinson’s or another disorder.
Even if your vet determines that your dog has Parkinson’s, they will probably encourage you to get another opinion.
For reasons discussed previously, it can be difficult to diagnose Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases in pets.
Life With Your Dog After Parkinson’s
After you receive a definitive diagnosis, it’s important to understand how your dog’s life will change and how that will impact your own life.
Your dog may become confused and not understand what’s happening with their body.
Just like people, animals can feel betrayed by their disabilities.
Understanding and gentleness can help your dog get through the roughest days.
Spending time with your dog and treating them kindly can improve their quality of life significantly.
There is no cure for this disease, but your vet may recommend things that you can do to ease their pain and improve their life.
Treating Canine Parkinson’s
Physical therapy can help keep your dog’s joints loose and make it easier for them to move around.
There are also exercises that you can do with your dog to maintain mobility.
Additionally, your vet can recommend diet changes to improve your dog’s neurological health.
This might include supplements or putting them on a special diet.
You can also invest in a canine wheelchair to help your dog retain independence of movement.
These chairs make it easier for your dog to get around by taking the weight off of their muscles and joints.
Should You Put Down a Dog With Parkinson’s?
Only you can make this decision.
However, your veterinarian can help you understand your dog’s experience.
If you feel your dog’s quality of life has left them with no independence, and they are in pain, you may opt to end their suffering.
No one wants to ever face this decision about an animal they love.
Remember that your pet relies on you for sustenance and love.
They have to trust your judgment to look out for their best interest.
Unfortunately, this also includes knowing when it’s time to let your dog pass with dignity and peace.
Has your dog been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease?
After getting a second opinion, you can learn how to make life a little easier for your canine pal.
Physical therapy, pain management and a nutritious diet can help slow the progress of the disease.
There are numerous ways to help your dog get around and feel more relaxed.
When the supplements, therapy and other efforts no longer keep your dog comfortable, it may be time to determine whether it’s time to end their suffering.