Health Issues -- Neurological

A Veterinarian's Perspective

Sequoyah German

Orthopedic issues
Neurological Issues
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Ophthalmic Issues
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Last updated 7/1/07

Neurological Disorders:

Degenerative Myopathy -- is a slowly progressing paralysis of the rear quarters in middle-aged to old German Shepherds.  Initially, the dog drags its rear toes slightly and scrapes the tops of the toenails as it walks.  This progresses to knuckling over of the rear paws and crossing of the feet during walking.  The forelegs function normally, and affected dogs are otherwise in good health. 

The disease progresses until affected dogs eventually cannot rise or walk on the rear legs.  The rear leg muscles undergo severe wasting (atrophy).  The cause of this degeneration in unknown, but the underlying disease is degeneration of the white matter in the spinal cord.


Epilepsy -- is relatively common in dogs.  Nerve cells in the brain function by transmission of electric impulses.  Epilepsy is a sudden, excessive discharge of electrical energy in groups of brain cells, causing a seizure or convulsion.  Why this spontaneous discharge occurs, we do not know, but in many cases the condition is hereditary.

Just because a dog seizures, does not mean that he/she has epilepsy.  There are a multitude of causes of seizures, including liver disease, kidney disease, antifreeze poisoning, tumors, thyroid problems, low blood sugar, etc. 

Epilepsy usually becomes apparent between 6 months and 6 years of age.  Nearly all breeds, including mixed breeds, have been affected.  Treatment for epilepsy does not cure the disease.  Instead, treatment controls the condition by decreasing the frequency, duration, and severity of the seizures. 

Sherle R. Thompson, DVM
Veterinarian and German Shepherd Breeder
Chattanooga, TN
Phone:  (423)991-0979