Diseases That Attack the Nervous Systems in Dogs

Diseases of the central nervous system affect a dog's muscle movements
Diseases of the central nervous system affect a dog's muscle movements (Image: dogs image by Anton Chernenko from Fotolia.com)

Diseases that affect the central nervous system in dogs include any genetic disorder that can attack the brain or spinal cord. These diseases have marked physical symptoms that owners will notice immediately, or gradually as the disease progresses. Owners noticing a sudden change in a dog's behavior, ability to walk or temperament, should consult a veterinarian immediately.

Cerebellar Hypoplasia

This condition most commonly occurs in puppies and is associated with infection from the herpes virus. Symptoms involve a tremor in the head of the puppy, which is more pronounced when the animal is attempting to move, feed, or play. These are known as "intention tremors" as the head wobble increases dramatically when the puppy "intends" to do something. A puppy with this disease of the nervous system can not develop normal eating and walking habits. There is no known treatment for the disease.


Epilepsy is a disorder of the central nervous system that results in regular seizures in dogs. Symptoms, periodic convulsions can appear anytime between six months and five years of age. Before an episode the dog may appear afraid and nervous. He may pace, seek larger amounts of attention, or simply hide. The disease is well-controlled through medication, though no cure exists. Even under medication the dog may continue to experience infrequent seizures.

Horner's Syndrome

Horner's Syndrome is the name for several symptoms that occur in a dog's face muscles. Sympathetic nerves lose the ability to stimulate muscle groups through disease or bodily injury, resulting in drooping eyelids, small pupil size, sunken eyes, and dilation of blood vessels on the affected side of the face. Symptoms of the disease are treated with special eye drops, though the underlying cause of the problem may or may not be treatable.


This disease affects the vertebrae and the discs between them. A bacterial or fungal infection causes swelling, compression of the vertebrae, and inflammation which slowly puts pressure on the dog's spinal cord. This spinal compression can pose a serious risk to a dog's nervous system functions. Owners will notice an infected dog become hesitant to jump or run, lose weight, run a fever, show symptoms of depression such as lethargy and unwillingness to play and shy away from contact with his back. Bone infections are difficult to treat. Therapy to clear the bacteria or fungus will last six weeks to six months.

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