Lafora Disease in Dachshunds: Reasons & Treatments

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Ever heard of a lafora disease in Dachshunds? In simple terms, Lafora Disease is a genetic disorder that leads to progressive myoclonus epilepsy. In even simpler terms, it’s a condition that causes unfortunate seizures in dogs. It happens due to abnormal sugar accumulation in their bodies. Why do we care? Because, sadly, our beloved Dachshunds are at a higher risk of developing this disease.

lafora disease in dachshunds

Why Are Dachshunds Prone To Lafora Disease?

Lafora disease, a rare but serious genetic disorder, poses a significant threat to dachshunds.

It’s a rare, inherited neurological disorder that doesn’t just affect dachshunds but also many other breeds. This condition is caused by a mutation in the gene responsible for the metabolism of glycogen. It’s a form of sugar stored in the body.

 In Dachshunds with Lafora disease, an abnormal form of glycogen accumulates in cells, especially in neurons, disrupting normal cellular function. 

This condition stems from an underlying genetic pattern that operates on an autosomal recessive pattern. For a dog to exhibit the disease, it requires the inheritance of two mutated gene copies. In other words, it should receive one from each parent.

Dachshunds, in particular, exhibit a heightened susceptibility to Lafora disease, attributed to the prevalent occurrence of this genetic mutation within the breed’s population.

But Dachshunds aren’t the only ones who can inherit this condition. Other breeds, such as Beagles and Miniature Wirehaired (Rabbit) Dachshunds, can also be prone to Lafora Disease. Each of these breeds has a rich genetic history. Just like in human families, certain traits can be passed down through generations.

Unfortunately, besides Lafora, Doxies are also prone to other health problems. And, teeth and spine problems are only some of them.

What are the symptoms of lafora disease in Dachshunds?

Symptoms: The Unwanted Signals

The symptoms of Lafora disease usually rear their ugly head in the prime of a dachshund’s life, typically around 5 to 7 years old, but they can be as punctual or as tardy as they like, sometimes showing up earlier or later. Symptoms include but are certainly not limited to:

  • Muscle spasms and tremors: Imaginetrying to thread a needle during an earthquake. Now imagine your dachshund experiencing something similar. Not fun.
  • Seizures: These can range from full-blown convulsions to mere “zoning out” episodes, which might look like your dachshund is contemplating the meaning of life but is actually having a seizure.
  • Blindness: Because seeing wasn’t hard enough for a creature whose nose is already closer to the ground than their eyes.
  • Difficulty walking: This includes anything from a wobble to a full-on “I’ve had too much to drink” stagger.
  • Confusion and changes in behavior: One day, they’re your loving, playful sausage dog. The next, they’re a grumpy old man in a dachshund suit.
lafora disease in dachshunds

How to diagnose lafora disease in Dachshunds?

Diagnosis: The Detective Work

Diagnosing Lafora disease involves a combination of medical history, symptom observation, and a few high-tech tools. Since it’s genetic, knowing whether your dachshund’s ancestors enjoyed a seizure-free life can be a good starting point. Advanced diagnostic tools might include:

  • Genetic testing: A simple DNA test can confirm the presence of the mutation responsible for Lafora disease. It’s like Maury, but for dogs – “You ARE the carrier of the gene!”
  • Biopsy: A small sample of skin or other tissue can be examined for the presence of Lafora bodies. It’s a bit more invasive but equally informative.
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG): This test measures the electrical activity in the brain and can help identify the presence of abnormal brain waves associated with seizures.

Treatment of lafora disease in Dachshunds

This condition, while challenging, can be managed through a combination of pharmacological interventions, dietary adjustments, and regular veterinary oversight to ensure the highest possible quality of life for affected dogs.

Pharmacological Management of Lafora Disease

  • Anticonvulsant Therapy:

Central to managing Lafora disease, anticonvulsant medications play a pivotal role in controlling seizure activity, which is a hallmark symptom of the condition.

Phenobarbital and Levetiracetam (Keppra) are frequently prescribed due to their efficacy in reducing the frequency and severity of seizures. The administration of these drugs requires careful dosage adjustments and monitoring by a veterinary professional to achieve optimal therapeutic levels while minimizing potential side effects.

  • Dietary Supplements: 

Incorporating dietary supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, may offer neuroprotective benefits, supporting neuronal health and potentially mitigating some symptoms of Lafora disease. These supplements should be integrated into the dog’s diet under veterinary guidance to ensure they complement the overall treatment strategy.

  • Specialized Diets: 

Nutritional management, particularly diets formulated to be low in carbohydrates and high in fats and proteins, may contribute to the management of seizure activity in dogs with Lafora disease. 

This dietary approach aims to reduce the availability of carbohydrates, thereby limiting the substrate for abnormal glycogen accumulation. Veterinary nutritionists can provide tailored advice to meet the specific needs of each dog, ensuring a balanced diet that supports overall health and well-being.

Monitoring and Adjusting Treatment Plans

The management of Lafora disease in dachshunds is dynamic and requires regular veterinary assessments to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment plan and adjust medications as necessary. 

Anticonvulsant medications come with potential side effects. These include lethargy, ataxia, and changes in appetite. Ongoing evaluation is necessary. The goal is to find a balance. This balance is between managing seizures and preserving quality of life.

Professional Veterinary Care and Owner Collaboration

Successful management of Lafora disease is a collaborative effort between veterinary professionals and dog owners. 

Regular check-ups allow for the timely adjustment of treatment plans and provide opportunities for owners to discuss concerns and observations regarding their dog’s condition. 

It’s imperative for owners to closely monitor their pets for any changes in behavior, seizure activity, or side effects related to treatment, and communicate these findings to their veterinarian.

Living with Lafora Disease: The Daily Grind

Managing Lafora disease in dachshunds is like running a marathon that you never signed up for. It requires patience, love, and a whole lot of dedication. Here are a few tips for making the journey a tad easier:

Stay organized: 

Keep a seizure diary, track medication schedules, and set reminders.. The diary will help you find the best treatment for your Doxie. And, hopefully, your vet will know to determine the dose of medicines. 

Make your home safe: 

Think baby-proofing, but for a dachshund. Cushion sharp corners, secure stairs, and make sure their environment is as safe and comfortable as possible. In case you have to leave your Doxie home alone, make sure you install a baby gate to keep it safe.

lafora disease in dachshunds

Seek support: 

Join online forums, local support groups, or connect with other dachshund owners facing the same challenges. There’s strength in numbers, and sometimes, a shared sigh over a cup of coffee (or a bowl of water) is all you need.

Is Lafora disease common in all breeds of dogs?

Lafora disease is primarily seen in Miniature Wirehaired Dachshunds, but it can also affect other breeds. Awareness and genetic testing are crucial for prevention across all potentially affected breeds.

What age do dachshunds typically show symptoms of Lafora disease?

This progressive neurological disorder tends to manifest itself during the middle to later stages of a dog’s life. It typically occurs around the age of 5 to 7 years. However, it’s important to note that the onset of symptoms can vary based on individual factors. It includes the dog’s overall health, genetic predisposition, and environmental factors.

Lafora disease, characterized by the accumulation of abnormal glycogen (Lafora bodies) in neurons, leads to a variety of neurological symptoms. The early signs can be subtle and easily overlooked, making vigilant observation crucial for early detection and management.

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